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July 8, 2020

BehindTheMedspeak: The 5-Second Rule

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C. Claiborne Ray's "Q&A" column in the New York Times Science section addressed this urban legend as follows.

Q. You know the five-second rule for dropped food? Is it really safe if you pick it up in time?

A. "The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule," said Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk."

In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact, Dr. Gulick said. Factors that influence the risk and the rate of bacterial transfer include the type of floor; the type of food; the type of bacteria; and how long the bacteria have been on the floor.

In a study published in 2007 in The Journal of Applied Microbiology, Clemson University researchers tested salmonella placed on wood, tile or carpet, and dropped bologna on the surfaces for 5, 30 or 60 seconds. With both wood and tile, more than 99 percent of the bacteria were transferred nearly immediately, and there was no difference by the time of contact. Carpet transferred a smaller number of bacteria, again with no difference by contact time. The amount transferred decreased over hours, but there were still thousands of the bacteria per square centimeter on the surfaces after 24 hours, and hundreds survived on the surfaces for as long as four weeks. As few as 10 salmonella bacteria can cause gastroenteritis.

Below, the abstract of the 2007 paper cited above.

Residence time and food contact time effects on transfer of Salmonella Typhimurium from tile, wood and carpet: testing the five-second rule

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[illustration at the top by Victoria Roberts for the New York Times]

July 8, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


Comments

I figured when it hit, any germs there stick to the food, but I’m a country boy and can handle a few germs.
By eating it right away those germs don’t have time to become a colony which would give me a big dose of germs, plus food spoilage toxins.
Yes, I lie to myself over many risky moves, doesn't everyone?

Posted by: xoxoxoBruce | Jul 8, 2020 4:21:51 PM

Mythbusters.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODfbaZ9_XzQ

Posted by: Ric In OR | Jul 8, 2020 2:42:50 PM

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