‘Five-second rule’ will not stop bacteria: study

Dropped a sandwich on the floor? Throw it away. It takes less than a second for bacteria to contaminate food, a study suggests.

‘Five-second rule’ will not stop bacteria: study

The next time you drop food on the floor, remember that bacteria is likely to have contaminated it.

This happens in less than a second, according to a recent study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal. The amount of bacteria depends on the food and surface in question.

To arrive at these findings, Professor Donald Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University worked with master’s thesis student Robyn Miranda.

Four surfaces – carpet, wood, stainless steel and ceramic tiles – were laced with bacterium much like salmonella for the study.

Researchers then dropped cut watermelon, plain bread, buttered bread and strawberry gummy candy on each surface.

These foods were allowed to make contact for varying durations: less than a second, five seconds, 30 seconds and five minutes.

There were 128 combinations, but researchers repeated these 20 times each to amass 2,560 measurements.

On the whole, a longer contact time was associated with greater contamination. But, even the shortest one resulted in bacteria getting on food.

“Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously,” Professor Schaffner said.

Carpet transmitted the least bacteria, while ceramic tiles and stainless steel transmitted the most. When food was dropped on wood, there were no consistent results.

Among the four types of food, watermelon was contaminated the quickest, as it had the most moisture. On the other hand, strawberry gummy candy was the most resistant to bacteria.

“I will tell you on the record that I’ve eaten food off the floor,” Professor Schaffner told The New York Times.

“If I were to drop a piece of watermelon on my relatively clean kitchen floor, I’m telling you, man, it’s going in the compost,” he quipped.

Check out The New York Times for more.

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