The five-second rule isn’t really true.
Says James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing for Consumer Reports, who says you shouldn’t eat food that’s been on the floor, even if it’s less than 5 seconds away, and who says he’ll never eat anything on the word nor leave his kids.
a 2016 study of Rutgers University found that transmission of bacteria from a contaminated surface to a piece of food can occur almost instantaneously in some cases, thus disproving the five-second rule.
The study also found that with some foods, the longer they remain on the surface, the more bacteria are transferred, says Donald W. Schaffner, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors, an extension specialist in food sciences, and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University. University of New Jersey.
However, there are other factors that affect the amount of bacteria your food picks up. For example, bacteria move from the floor to wet food at a faster rate than dry food, so the risk of a piece of watermelon is quite different from a piece of toast or candy, Schaffner says.
The type of contaminated surface is also important. According to Schaffner’s study, as well as a 2006 study Published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, carpet transfers bacteria to foods at a lower rate compared to surfaces such as ceramic tile.
What are the risks of eating something on the floor?
First of all, James says, you can’t tell how much pollution there really is on Earth. So, even if your kitchen floor looks very clean, its bacterial or viral dangers are invisible to the naked eye.
And if you wear your shoes indoors, you’ve likely walked on sidewalks and other public places, so you’re transferring germs from the bottom of your shoes to places like the kitchen floor, says Brian Sheldon, Ph.D., food safety specialist and co-author of Did You Eat That? just yet?” It’s a book that explores common food myths, including the five-second rule. (Maybe another reason CR really encourages people Not wearing their shoes indoors.)
So if your shoes transfer germs from outside to the floor, or germs get there in some other way, you could end up eating harmful bacteria and getting sick. Sana Megahed, a scientist who directs food safety research and testing at CR, including testing for pathogens in meat and produce, says the risk is greater for the most vulnerable groups, such as young children, the elderly and people with immunodeficiency.
It is worth noting that the possibility of getting sick from dropping food is not very high. But in the event that you don’t drop food in a place where there are bacteria that will make you very ill, those bacteria will definitely go into your food, says Paul Dawson, Ph.D., a food scientist and co-author of Sheldon’s Did You Just Eat That?
Are there any instances where you can pick something off the ground and it will be fine?
If it’s a food you can wash, like apples, peaches, and blueberries, or a food you can peel, like potatoes and onions, you should be fine, says James. Otherwise, it is better not to risk it.
Sheldon says that if food is to be cooked after falling off the floor, the risk is lower compared to ready-to-eat foods that have not been heated or cooked after being picked off the floor.
In the end, it’s a good idea to exercise common sense. Before you pick up something from the ground to eat, think about the type of floor, what it might be on, and who will be eating the food, says Sana.
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