Modern Mythology

Modern Mythology: Crying Over Spilled Food

I’ve eaten food off the floor. Don’t act shocked. You have, too. You may have looked around to make sure no one was watching, but you’ve done it. And if you’re like me, you silently declare, “Five second rule!” as you’re popping that unfortunate M&M or almond into your pie hole. But is there such a thing as the five second rule?

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, the five second rule refers to the idea that you can eat something dropped on the floor if it’s been on the floor for less than five seconds, because food won’t become contaminated with bacteria before the five seconds are up.

As I’ve grown older, this myth makes less and less sense. In fact, SCIENCE has shown us that this rule isn’t a real thing at all.

Basically, if there is bacteria on the floor, it will stick to your food instantaneously. How much bacteria depends on the type of food, the type of bacteria, and the type of surface. But one thing it doesn’t depend on is how long the food has touched the floor. A 2007 study determined that, when food is dropped on hard wood and tile floors, salmonella attached itself to the food almost immediately. If the food was dropped on carpet, less of the bacteria transferred, but the amount of time the food was in contact with the surface had nothing to do in either case with contamination.

It’s as simple as that. So all these years, I’ve been eating untold amounts of bacteria. Awesome. But don’t take my word for it. The Mythbusters came to the same conclusion.

Featured image credit: chikache

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

1 Comment

  1. January 31, 2012 at 11:29 am —

    I never thought the five second rule had any real meaning as an indication of bacterial contamination, it’s just an excuse not to throw away food that’s been on the floor. Besides I much prefer the alternative “Only people I know have trod here.”- quip.

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