Bacteria

The Truth About The 5 Seconds Rule

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Say you dropped a piece of that sumptuous tiramisu off your fork and on to the floor (the coast is clear, nobody can see you), what do you do? Do you pick it up and toss it in the trash? Or, do you make a lightning move and enjoy it, all within 5 dear seconds?

Each one of us must have heard of the 5 seconds rule. It has been assumed that if you reach for a fallen food or any object fast enough, then it’s unlikely for it to become contaminated with germs.

The next golden question is, for busy parents, what do we do when our child’s pacifier drops yet again down the floor, and we are without a spare?

“The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule,” said Dr. Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.”

Salmonella enterocolitis is one of the most common types of food poisoning. It occurs when you swallow food or water that is contaminated with the salmonella bacteria.

Dr. Gulick also said that in general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact. Factors that influence the chance and the rate of germ transfer include the type of floor, food and bacteria, and how long the bacteria have been on the floor.

According to the New York Times:

In another study researchers tested salmonella placed on wood, tile or carpet, and dropped bologna on the surfaces for 5, 30 or 60 seconds. With both wood and tile, more than 99 percent of the bacteria were transferred nearly immediately, and there was no difference by the time of contact. Carpet transferred a smaller number of bacteria, again with no difference by contact time. The amount transferred decreased over hours, but there were still thousands of the bacteria per square centimeter on the surfaces after 24 hours, and hundreds survived on the surfaces for as long as four weeks. As few as 10 salmonella bacteria can cause gastroenteritis.

Just like handwashing, it’s always best to wash teethers or pacifiers that have fallen before giving them back to our children. And yes, there are certain things that are not meant to be recycled. That includes tiramisu that has landed outside our plates.