Most moms worldwide use the five-second rule whenever their children drop food the floor. The universal myth, that most of us were raised on, states that if said food only sits on the floor for five seconds or under, it is fine to eat; without any worry of germ contamination. But the real question is: does this in fact stand true?
According to a study conducted in 2003, 70 percent of females surveyed were aware of this ‘five-second’ food rule, and about 56 percent of males had heard about it; in fact, it was reported that the females within the study were likelier to eat food once it’s been dropped on the floor, versus their male counterparts.
Still, does food contract enough bacteria in five seconds, after falling on the floor, to warrant concern?
A 2007 Clemson University study, dove deeper into this topic. They injected Salmonella into squares of wood, tile, and carpet as part of their research. Five minutes after doing so, they placed bread or bologna on the surface of these squares for either 60 or 30 seconds; measuring the bacteria that transferred onto the food. They repeated these actions (after bacteria had been on the surface of these squares) for two hours, four, eight, and then 24 hours.
CNN revealed that the results didn’t necessarily matter how long the food was on the surface when it came to bacteria being transferred onto the item (whether that be five seconds or more); what mattered more was the amount of bacteria on the floor, which ended up lowering over time. So, it may not matter if your food has been on the floor for over five seconds, rather, how much bacteria is on your floors, when the food hits it.
The study also revealed that the type of surface your floor is, makes a difference. When carpets received an injection of Salmonella, less than one percent of the bacteria transferred over to food; however, when it came to wood or tile, the number became about 48 to 70 percent of bacteria being transferred.
Interesting enough, a study emerging from the UK‘s Aston University in 2015 seemed to reveal the same results, using close to the same guidelines conducted in the 2007 study. That study also revealed that 87 percent of participants would eat food that has fallen on the floor.
So, while it potentially matters more about what is on your floors when your food drops, it seems that we remain to be a society that could care less; as long as our stomachs are full.