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Forget ‘5 Second’ Food Rule

By on September 19, 2016
health

Most people have invoked the “five-second rule” after dropping something tasty on the ground at least once or twice in their lives.

Is that food really safe to eat? Probably not, a new study says.

After putting the five-second rule to the test, researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., found contamination with bacteria can occur in less than one second.

“The five-second rule is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food,” said study lead researcher Donald Schaffner, a professor and extension specialist in food science.

“Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously,” he said.

The scientists dropped foods of different textures, such as watermelon, bread and gummy candy, on a variety of surfaces including ceramic tile, stainless steel, wood and carpeting.

The scientists then contaminated each of these surfaces with a salmonella-like bacteria known as Enterobacter aerogenes for various lengths of time. The surfaces were allowed to dry completely before each type of food was dropped.

The researchers evaluated the transfer of the bacteria from each surface to each food item after letting it sit for less than one second, five seconds, 30 seconds and 300 seconds. Overall, they assessed 128 different scenarios 20 times for a total of 2,560 measurements.

The researchers also found foods dropped on the carpet sample had less contamination than those dropped on tile and stainless steel. The food items dropped on wood had more variable levels of contamination, the researchers noted.

“The topography of the surface and food seem to play an important role in bacterial transfer,” Schaffner said.

The study was published recently in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

 

SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, Sept. 8, 2016. This content also found in Health Day.