Drop Five Second Rule . . . Or Die

Most of us use the five second rule, right? Food dropped on the floor is okay to eat if you pick it up within five seconds.

But if you think about it, that doesn't make much sense. And if you study it, it turns out, that idea makes no sense at all.

In 2003 a high school student, Jillian Clarke, found significant numbers of bacteria were transferred from a contaminated surface to food in less than five seconds. I'm mighty proud that we still have high school kids out there that care about such things. But on the other hand . . . duh!

Now, the Journal of Applied Microbiology carries a report Clemson University researchers have found that the bacterial transfer rate from surface to food decreases over time (also, duh). But in some cases over 99% of bacterial cells were actually transferred within the first five seconds. Speedy little devils, ain't dey?

The researchers took a look at how quickly Salmonella would transfer from wood, tile, and carpet to bologna and bread. Transfer from carpet to bologna was low, but wood and tile contaminated the sausage instantly. Can you say, "Splat?" I knew you could.

Note: in some cases only 10 bacteria cells are needed to cause illness, and fewer than 100 E. coli bacteria can kill you.

So the five second rule may actually work for very clean surfaces (double da-uh), but don't steak, er . . . stake your life on it.

You do scrub the counter after playing with your food, I mean making dinner, right? Take a hint.


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