We’ve all been in the situation: you’ve just prepared a delicious plate of food, then something causes it to wind up on the floor. What do we do? Shout ‘five second rule’, pick it up, and stick it in our gobs!
Why do we do it? Because, surely, a second or two is not enough time to render the food dangerous to our health, right?
If you count yourself firmly within that school of thinking, then you’re about to have your world turned upside-down.
Scientists in the US have published a study proving that it takes just one second for food to become contaminated once it hits the floor.
A research team from Rutgers University carried out an experiment involving different foods, floor surfaces and periods of time to reach their findings.
The team placed food including watermelon, bread and butter, and jelly sweets on wood, ceramic tile, carpet and stainless steel surfaces; they then measured how much contamination was transferred after less than a second, five seconds, 30 seconds, and 300 seconds.
As part of the controlled experiment, the team had also coated each surface with a micro-organism called Enterobacter areogenes, which is similar to Salmonella.
The results were shocking: it took less than one second for the ‘dropped’ food to become contaminated, with the piece of fruit faring worst in the experiment. Meanwhile, the ceramic tile and stainless steel surfaces transferred the highest levels of contamination.
Publishing the results in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, lead researcher Donald Schnaffer said the ‘five second rule’ was as good as debunked.
“The ‘five-second rule’ is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfers from a surface to food. Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously,” he wrote.