We all have been through the trauma of dropping a food that we are so excited to eat on the floor. We also have all been through those five seconds debating whether to pick it up and eat it, or throw it away. The thought of eating it is due to the “5 second rule” that is drilled into our heads. “Oh you can still eat it, theres a 5 second rules” “Oh my god pick it up quickly! 5 second rule!” These are common phrases amongst people who see people drop something they are about to eat. Before you bend down and pick up what you dropped, think again. A recent study has shown that the 5 second rule is a myth and disproved. It just so happens that bacteria can transfer from a surface to food instantaneously.
Researchers of the School of Environmental and biological Science at Rutgers University conducted experiments to test the truth of the 5 second rule. In the study researchers tested four different surfaces, stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and carpet. Along with the surfaces, four different types of foods were tested, watermelon, bread, bread and butter, and gummy candy. There was also four contact times, less than one second, five, 30, and 300 seconds. Two medias were used, tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer they aided the growth of Enterobacter aerogenes, a “cousin” of Salmonella.
Multiple transmission scenarios were assessed for each food type, surface type, contact time, and bacterial preparation. The surfaces were fully dried before the samples of food were dropped and vaccinated with bacteria. There were 128 different scenarios that were repeated 20 times, leading to 2,560 measurements. Due to the moisture, watermelon turned out to attract the most bacteria. The gummy candy absorbed the least amount of bacteria. From the study we can tell that the more wet the food is and the longer the contact time, usually leads to more contamination of the food product. Here is a video of Dr. Oz testing out this theory!
So, is there really harm in eating food off the floor? It depends on the the factors of the situation including, what type of food, what type of surface, contact time, and even the type of organism that transfers on to the food. No matter the circumstance, when a piece of food falls on any surface, for any amount of time, bacteria will be transferred, but the amount and type that is, will be different every time. You can drop a gummy bear on a clean tile floor for one second and a minuscule amount of bacteria can be transferred that it can not even be harmful. But, is it worth the risk? To be safe and not be infected with unnecessary germs, do not eat food that has fallen on the floor, and disregard the 5 second rule.