Growing up and constantly dropping my favorite food on the floor, I was a strict follower of the five second rule. For those who never drop their food on the floor; the five second rule is mostly followed by children and states that if you drop food or anything that you want to eat on the ground there is a five second window that exists before it is contaminated with germs. It is hard to believe but scientific research has actually been conducted to investigate this curious question.
Jillian Clark, a high school intern for the University of Illinois conducted a survey and found that slightly more than half of the men and 70% of the women surveyed had heard of the five second rule, and many agreed that they believed it. To further this research Clark contaminated ceramic tiles with E. coli bacteria and then placed gummy bears and cookies on the tiles for five seconds. Her results proved that bacteria can contaminate food within five seconds.
In another study Professor Paul L. Dawson and colleagues conducted research as to how long bacteria survive on surfaces, like the floor. In this study Salmonella was applied to tile, wood flooring, and carpet. The research showed that after 24 hours of contamination tens of thousands still existed on the carpet, and even after 28 days hundreds of Salmonella were still alive. Dawson placed slices of bologna and bread on the surfaces eight hours after contamination and found within five seconds the food had 150-8,000 bacteria on it.
So the next time you drop your potato chip, you may want to think twice before you rush to pick it up. Bacteria can contaminate virtually anything upon contact alone. It does seem that the quicker you react to your fallen food the less bacteria will exist, however, it will not be bacteria free. You may think you have quick reflexes, but they are not quick enough. When you are having doubts about your fallen food, toss it out.