Yes! The ‘Five Second’ Rule is real after all!

I am well aware that it’s just wrong for a foodservice professional to say so, but the much-maligned Five-Second Rule about the safety of food dropped on the floor has been vindicated – at least in part – by UK researchers who recently performed some simple but elegant experiments…

e_coli - © Rocky Mountain Laboratories

A team of fourth-year Biology students led by Microbiology Professor Anthony Hilton of Aston University carefully monitored the transfer of germs including E. Coli and Staphylococcus from different flooring materials to different foods. They left the food – toast, pasta, cookies and a sticky sugar candy – in contact with carpet, tile and laminate flooring for periods of time from 3 to 30 seconds and then measured how many bacteria were picked up by each sample.

What they found was, it all depends on how long you wait before picking up the food from the floor. At 3-5 seconds the danger of serious contamination is minimal. At 30 seconds, the danger is much greater.

I’m not a scientist, but as a foodservice professional, I’ve spent some time learning about the conditions under which germs live and multiply, and the rates at which they proliferate. I’ve always said that the Five-Second Rule is imminently sensible – as far as relatively clean indoor floors go. But I still have serious problems with food dropped on outdoor surfaces and food dropped on indoor floors with visible dirt or spills!

It all comes down to common sense, really – something we seem to have far too little of in our world today.

P.S. – I’ve challenged The Mythbusters to take another look at this one, in the light of this new evidence. I predict they would find it at least PLAUSIBLE this time, of not CONFIRMED, rather than the great big BUSTED label they put on it last time. I’ll let you know if they bite!

~ Maggie J.