Five Second Rule


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Today while eating my lunch, I dropped a grape and watched it roll under the table. My friend that I was eating with, called five second rule and thrust the grape into his mouth. 

Does the five second rule really apply? Does the bacteria really sit back and count to five seconds before charging? 
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In the New York Times science section, this question is addressed. The chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Roy M. Gulick, says that picking something up off the floor and eating is exposing your body to bacteria and risk of catching an infection. He is quoted to say that bacteria clings almost immediately after the food is dropped. Therefore concluding that the five second rule is in fact a myth. 

A study done at Clemson University in 2007 with salmonella and bologna concluded that the amount of time on the floor varied very little. Tests were done on wood, tile, and carpet with varying times on the floor and the results did not change. Bacteria clings to the food immediately so there is not a five second "free bee". It was found that if the food is left on the floor, for ten seconds, it has more bacteria on it that if it was five seconds. 

In 2003, Jillian Clarke found that bacteria does cling to the food before five seconds. Also, some human behaviors were discovered while she did her study. She observed that sweets are more likely to get picked up than vegetables. Think back, when was the last time you picked up a dropped piece of broccoli? But when was the last time you picked up a piece of chocolate after you experienced a moment of butterfingers. 

In the Clemson study, bologna was used and in Jillian Clarke's study, gummy bears and fudge cookies were used. I wonder if the stickiness  of the food changes the rate of bacteria transfered.  

Charles Gerba a microbiologist of the University of Arizona who is nicknamed the "germ guru" cautions that the location of the food is also a component. He notes that a bathroom floor is at the top of the list. Needless to say, I hope no one is eating in the bathroom, much less dropping food in there and putting it back in their mouth. It does give me pause though, Mr. Gerba goes on to say that they tested shoes and 93% of them had "fecal bacteria" on them. 

Sad to say, the five second rule is not real. Next time you experience butterfingers, it may be better to leave that last bite of chocolate on the ground.

3 Comments

I found this to be very interesting because it's definitely something we all do or have done in the past. I also found it funny that it says we are more likely to pick up a sweet than a vegetable because that's exactly how I am. After reading this I thought what other myths about food could be incorrect. I found this article and it debunks many things people believe to be true about food. In reality many things that we do with our food could make us sick. Here's the article, (http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/myths/). Hope you like it!

I don't know how many times I have used the five second rule just out of habit or because I really wanted that piece of food that just slipped out of my hand. I am sure I am not alone with this, too. Could this be a reason why we can so easily contract illnesses? We don't see any visible trace of dirt or contamination on the food we drop so we pick it up quick and continue on eating not knowing that it is likely to be covered in numerous different germs and bacteria. I enjoyed reading this article and it is going to make me think twice about applying the five second rule anymore!

I wonder if following five second rule could increase your body's immunity? Maybe it'd give the body a chance to develop antibodies towards the intruding bacteria? If that were the case following the five second rule would be like a self-administered vaccination! ^_^ It'd be interesting to see a study regarding those who follow the five second rule and those who don't; showing which group has a more resilient immune system.

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