Advise Me
Does The Five-Second Rule Really Work?

Whether you are willing to admit it or not, it's probably safe to say that we have all eaten food that has been dropped on the ground. After all, the "five-second rule" tells us that it's safe to eat food that has touched the floor as long as you pick it up in five seconds or less, right?

Are you willing to bet your life on it?

According to an Janet Conner, infection preventionist at Banner Health, regardless of how fast you pick food off the floor, you're taking a risk. Bacteria, fungi and viruses can be present on any surface. Though factors such as the type of flooring, the amount of moisture in the food dropped and room temperature can influence how quickly and how much germs will contaminate the food, it occurs well within five seconds. A study by Clemson University in 2007 found that when a piece of bologna was dropped on wood, tile and carpet flooring, bacteria were transferred to the piece of meat instantaneously.

Eating food that has been dropped briefly on the floor doesn't guarantee that you will get sick,” said Conner. “Ingesting potentially harmful bacteria (such as salmonella) that just piggy-backed on your buttered toast increases your risk, with as few as one to 10 bacteria, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal problems.

Therefore, as tempting as may seem to dismiss the risk of infection after dropping your lunch onto even the shiniest floor, here's some food for thought:
  • You really don't know what's been left on that very spot where someone might have walked over with their boots
  • Even if you do pick your food up within five seconds, you will always have some germs clinging on to it
  • It doesn't take many germs to cause infection
  • When in doubt, throw it out

I guess there really is a reason to cry over spilled milk.

Nutrition Wellness
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