When your strawberry or fries drop, do you obey the five-second rule? Do you even know what the five-second rule is? It is a rule that suggests that if your food drops on the ground, they are still safe to eat if you pick them up within five seconds.
Each person has this subconscious limitation set as to when food becomes inedible after touching the ground. For some, what surface it hits and determine if they will pick it up or not, while others are totally averse to the idea.
The five-second rule can be used as a safety blanket, but it depends on the kind of food. Fruits like carrots or broccoli become a lost cause almost immediately. At the same time, the roast potato will remain edible even if it is kicked halfway through a football field. Why the worry though over the safe window for food that drops to the deck?
What Experts Say
A group of experts from Rutgers University in New Jersey discovered that when food hits the floor, it is instantly contaminated with bacteria. But, there is another pretty different opinion on this.
Anthony Hilton, a microbiology professor at Aston University, says that when it comes to how bacteria is transferred to food on impact, there is more to it than what meets the eye. He explains:
"It is easy to generalize and say any food dropped on the floor will contain bacteria. That's absolutely right and subject to the rule of Physics."
He argues that since humans happily co-exist with millions of harmless bacteria, not all meals found on the kitchen floor are harmful if accidentally consumed. To prove this, he carried out a simple experiment. He dropped biscuits, cooked pasta, pieces of toast, and midget gem sweets on carpets and laminated flooring for 3 and 30 seconds, respectively.
Professor Hilton found that "the predominant bacteria found on both flooring types were mostly harmless human skin and some environmental ones found in soil and dust." Well, you won't be classified as a carnivore if you do choose to eat your dead skin along with food that drops on your home's floor.
This, though, is no cue to pick up food when outdoors, with or without Covid-19. You don't know who stepped on what or what their shoe or feet have pressed on those grounds. It is never safe to pick food up outside. Somewhere in Africa, the myth used to scare children from picking up food that drops is "Satan has eaten that." This oddly, though, works to scare them (for some time).
Does The Five-Second Rule Apply Outdoors?
It does not.
Professor Hilton buttresses the above-mentioned point by saying:
"No one should be picking food up and eating it from anywhere outside, be it the park, train station, or shopping mall"
Also, picking up food off floors in homes with pets like cats and dogs is not advised. This is because, as outdoor pets, you don't know what they have been exposed to and have brought home. There is also the issue of pet dander which you don't want to risk ingesting. But, professor Hilton continues:
"If you are confident you have a hygienically clean home where you vacuum carpets once or twice a week, use detergents on hard floors once a week, and take outdoor shoes off when you're entering, the likelihood is you won't expose yourself to any more bacteria than is already on your body by picking up a piece of toast which has just dropped to the floor."
"There are far greater infection hazards in the home to worry about, such as Campylobacter, on poultry. So whether it's the three-second rule, five-second rule, or blowing it, what matters most where dropped food is concerned is to exercise common sense."
It is safe to say that each man will decide what is good for him within his home when it comes to food dropped. As long as your home is clean and without pets, you'll be eating just your dead cells from the skin.