You’re about to put something delectable into your mouth, when suddenly―in slow motion―you watch it fall to the floor. You stare at it furiously, yet longingly, scrambling to scoop it up. Do you proceed to devour it as planned, because of the so-called five-second rule? Let’s discuss whether the five-second rule really does exist or not.
“No matter if it’s at home on the carpet, the kitchen floor, or in the street … if you drop it, chuck it.” ―Dr. Ronald Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London.
Germs; perverse dwellers of a chthonic world, no doubt, can wreak havoc in the sneakiest of ways. We’re familiar with the felicity of carefully unpacking a delicious snack. But then, things turn from wonderful to dreadful within seconds because of an unavoidable mishap that left you gaping at the fallen treat. Many of us would’ve hurriedly stooped to pick it up, dusted some fanciful presence from its surface, and without so much as a second thought, eaten it. Did you apply the five-second rule when you did that? You’ll grimace once you discover just how implausible this rule is.
The five-second rule is an obscure unwritten law, that states food can be eaten within five seconds after being dropped on the floor. Sometimes, we can be clumsy while handling food or not nimble enough to dodge people in our path. We’re bound to drop food and factually, highly inclined to pick it off the ground and eat it. Women supposedly are more likely to eat what was dropped, compared to men who threw it out right away. The first person to come forward to help debunk this five-second rule, was high school student Jillian Clarke from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Continue reading to find out more about Clarke’s astonishing findings.
Why the Five-Second Rule is a Myth
Jillian Clarke discovered that the probability of salvaging a fallen sweet treat, was far greater than if veggies toppled over.
The name E. coli may ring a bell, which is short for Escherichia coli. There are a number of strains of E. coli, where certain kinds reside in the intestines of not just humans, but animals too. Their role is a crucial one when it comes to maintaining gut health, but it doesn’t rule out the fact that other strains of the same family, can cause significant harm to the body. Contaminated water and food contain these savage bacteria, leading to reactions that spell trouble. When Jillian Clarke performed her experiment―covering the floor in Gummy Bears and fudge-stripe cookies―she was assisted by Meredith Agle, a Ph. D candidate. Because Clarke was the first to test the rule, she was awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research with the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in public health (a parody award of the Nobel Prizes).
They took note of some pretty nasty revelations, where food once dropped, was raided by the E. coli bacteria that was spread generously over the floor’s surface, prior to the experiment. In pursuit of additional perturbing data, other research teams conducted various tests on the same idea. The results of a test led by food scientist Paul L. Dawson, revealed a startling amount of facts related to another deadly germ, Salmonella―the health problems caused by it, can be fatal if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Some cases even require hospitalization. Salmonella is also found in infected food and water, including under cooked/raw animal meat.
Dawson and his team covered varied surfaces (wood, tile, and nylon carpeting) in a “Salmonella broth”, leaving it to dry over a span of four weeks. Bologna and bread were then placed on these, which in under a second, were consumed by a throng of Salmonella, multiplying at a heart-stopping rate within mere seconds. These surfaces were observed as ideal harbors for a Salmonella infestation. This proved that not only did the five-second rule appear starkly deceptive, but perilous for clueless folk.
Moisture vs. No Moisture
Manchester Metropolitan University conducted a test to analyze how microbes swarm food once dropped, in relation to speed. They discovered that bacteria would infect food that had more moisture, compared to others that lacked it. Food that contained gravy or adequate moisture like poached meals or exposed fruit, were highly susceptible to the wrath of microbes. Merely dusting or blowing on food once picked up, will not shoo the germs away―you need to wash it (if it can be), or toss it in the trash, pronto.
Abominable Household and Foreign Surfaces
Germs are everywhere―from your kitchen counter and cell phone, to the toilet seat and paper roll dispenser―we’re encapsulated in a habitat that is teeming with germs. The worst places where food can fall in a home are the kitchen counter or the floor close to it, especially the area around where the trash can is placed, and carpeted areas. Even our office cubicle tabletops aren’t safe from these micro minions, or anywhere near a public restroom. The latter is considered a breeding ground for bacteria, so avoid going in/near one with food.
The five-second rule sounds as good as an urban legend, that was probably thought up by a rotund person who just had to eat a fallen pizza slice. In a disturbing survey carried out by Dr. Harley Rotbart (from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine), traces of fecal matter were found on 93 percent of people’s shoe soles (yikes!); this news alone is enough to make fallen-food eaters averse to accidentally dropped food. Or won’t it? Bottom line: Don’t pick food off the floor and eat it!