I’ll admit it, sometimes when my child drops her food on the floor, I pick it up, rinse or dust it off, and hand it back to her. I’m a little superstitious, so I follow the five-second rule (wives’ tale), which says any food dropped on the floor remains germ-free for five seconds. While I definitely wouldn’t do this if we were out, I feel only a little guilty at home, knowing that the worst germs on my floor are probably not that bad. In fact, I call those germs ‘immune builders’! So far so good.
Well, now I feel even less guilty, because new research finds there may be some truth to the five-second rule! Food dropped on the floor does indeed remain relatively germ-free for a period of approximately five seconds, depending on a number of variables. The research findings were revealed earlier this month by Anthony Hilton, Professor of Microbiology at Aston University, England.
In the study, the researchers timed the transfer of two common disease-producing bacteria – Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus – from carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces to a piece of toast, pasta, a cookie, and a sticky sweet treat. They left the foods on the floor for periods from 3 to 30 seconds and found that each variation in the experiment had an effect on the speed of bacteria transfer. These were the results:
- Carpets produced a slower rate of transfer to all food types than laminated and tiled surfaces.
- Toast was the least likely food to take on bacteria within five seconds from any surface, but if it had some kind of spread on it, far more bacteria was transferred, and at a faster rate.
- And yep, you guessed it, sweet, sticky foods took on the most bacteria within five seconds.
The scientists were quick to add that consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present, and in what quantities, on the floor at the time. But don’t let your kids eat their lunch off the floor at Highpoint foodcourt just yet, because the results haven’t yet been confirmed by a second, independent study, and of course, you just don’t know the type or quantity of bacteria on any given floor. I’ll still think twice about allowing my child to consume food from the floor, and when I do, I’ll inspect it carefully first, remove any ‘bits’ and rinse it under the tap (not to mention frequently cleaning my floors). But, thanks to those helpful UK scientists, I won’t let Mummy Guilt overcome me when putting those ‘immune building’ bacteria to work!