new study appears to validate what every 12-year-old knows: If
you drop food on the floor, you have five seconds until it
students at Aston University in Birmingham, England, tested
the time-honored five-second rule and claim to have found some
truth to it. The faster you pick food up off the floor, they
discovered, the less likely it is to contain bacteria.
under the direction of microbiology professor Anthony Hilton,
the students dropped toast, pasta, cookies and sticky candy
and left them on the floor for three to 30 seconds, according
to information released on the universityís website March
10. They then monitored the transfer of two common bacteria,
Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus ó in common
terms, E.coli and staph.
bacteria, they concluded, do a pretty lousy job at moving from
floor to food, especially when the food isnít given much
time to be a target.
of surface mattered, too. Bacteria were least likely to
transfer from carpet and most likely to transfer from laminate
or tile, the study found.
go picking fallen Fritos out of the rug just yet.
study contradicts findings of earlier research at Clemson
University, where scientists tested how fast Salmonella
Typhimurium bacteria made their way from flooring surfaces to
bologna and bread. It happened instantly, the researchers
more, the British study apparently hasnít been published yet
in a scientific journal, noted Jeffrey T. LeJeune, a food
safety expert at the Ohio Agricultural Research and
Development Center in Wooster Township. Since the data arenít
available to other researchers, he said, thereís no way to
replicate the study or determine whether the results are
would be very skeptically cautious about the results, and even
more about the interpretation," he said.
a professor and head of the Food Animal Health Research
Program at the center, said eating food off the floor violates
pretty much every recommended method for preventing food-borne
illnesses. And scientists know from previous research that our
floors are littered with nasty organisms that can make us
sick, even in homes where the occupants have been educated
about proper cleaning, he said.
organisms go beyond the bacteria studied in England, he said.
Norovirus alone causes about half of food-borne illness
outbreaks, he said, and the study doesnít address how fast
that virus gets transferred to food.
bottom line: Donít eat food off the floor. Ever.
be true that fewer bacteria get transferred in five seconds
than 10 seconds, "but waiting zero seconds is far better
than waiting any seconds," he said. "I think one
second is too long."