Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Do you think bacteria take more than 5 seconds to grow on spilled food?
The five-second rule suggests that the food spilled when picked within 5 seconds is safe to eat. Most of us enjoy this as an amusing social fiction that allows us to eat a dropped piece of food and say “5 seconds rule!”. Now, the number of bacterias that may stick on to the spilled food entirely depends on the condition of the floor- if it was wet or unclean. Also, the floor material!
According to a study done by Ms. Jillian Clarke from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a variety of foods significantly contaminated by even brief exposure to a tile inoculated with E. coli. According to one of her tests, she also proved that the bread, when spilled on the floor, got contaminated with bacterias under five seconds. Bacterias are more attracted to wet food and wet floor, which has more moisture. Given an example, food like candy or paneer dropped on the floor; it is always better to discard that, as there are higher chances that the bacteria have already contaminated a part of that food. If it is any dry product, there are lesser chances due to lower moisture content in them.
But will this food drop contain enough bacteria to make you sick? The study is yet to be proven scientifically. As already mentioned earlier, there are higher chances for food with higher moisture content to get contaminated quickly.
A visually clean floor isn’t always fresh.
The floor which is dry and looks clean can have bacterias too. According to germ theory, germs can survive on the floor for a long time. They are invisible. So chances are, some bacterias are probably living on your kitchen floor or any other restaurant. There are always people milling around, so there are even higher chances of the floor looking visually clean to be more contaminated.
Faster the better? Does it work?
Studies say that a piece of food pick up more bacteria the longer it spends on the floor. Food left for 5 seconds, or less collect fewer bacteria than food lying there for a longer time. Bacteria get on to your food as soon as it hits the floor. And foods with wet surfaces, like an apple slice, can pick up bacteria easily.
Hence, ensure that food when dropped or spilled on the floor discarded and not consumed.