Our six year old always says “5 second rule!” after she drops a sweet on the floor, then picks it up and pops it in her mouth. Both mum and grandmother passed down the phrase to her (and the bad habit) but the old adage simply is not true. Wiping food after its fallen on the floor, doesn’t work. Blowing on it doesn’t work either. If food lands on the floor, then it will pick up more germs than if it hadn’t fallen on the floor. Simple as that. So if it falls on the floor, chuck it in the bin.
Research, undertaken by various scientists around the world, has, time and time again, proven that the five second rule is false and an old wive’s tale. Obviously the research is dependent on some variables, such as how clean the floors were to start with. But generally, the stickier the food is (and let’s face it, most foodstuffs in a six year old are sticky!), the more germs it will pick up on contact with the floor. The longer that food lies on the floor, the more germs it will acquire which is true enough. Although, perhaps counter-intuitively, easy-to-clean smoother floors cause more germs to transfer than do coarser floors. And carpets transfer even less germs. So if you have ultra clean carpets, then you have a better chance of your child’s dropped food not collecting germs, but there will still be more germs on it than before, so why take the risk?
Dr Ronald Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London subjected the five-second rule to the rigours of scientific testing. He dropped food such as pizzas, apples and toast on different floor surfaces for five or 10 seconds then tested the results. All foods picked up more germs when compared to food that hadn’t been dropped on the floor.
During her experiments into the 5 second rule, Jillian Clarke, an American high school student, discovered that people were more likely to apply the 5 second rule to their biscuits than they were to broccoli!
Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences proved that the period of contact did have a bearing on bacterial contamination and in just 30 seconds, bacterial contamination rates could increase 10 fold.
But when you consider that E-coli only requires a handful of cells to make you sick then it’s really not worth gambling, is it?
See this NHS page for official guidelines: