It’s okay to eat that Oreo I just dropped on the floor…right? It’s only been languishing on the floor for, what, no more than five seconds! Unless you’re eating a sponge (and you never should) the little bits of sustenance you drop on the floor won’t exactly soak up dirt and germs in only five seconds. Although, the five second rule, just like real estate, is all about location, location, location. You could drop a piece of bologna on the floor next to your bed (which raises the question of why you’re eating slices of bologna in bed – but that’s for another post) and pick it back up 5 beats later and it almost certainly wouldn’t be any worse for wear. Now replicate that butterfingers-like handling of a bologna slice in the kitchen or bathroom and then you’ve got germy variables to consider.
A team from Clemson University conducted a study measuring the bacteria levels on classic 5 second rule locations such as outdoor soil, the sidewalk, kitchen counters (especially porous counters – this doesn’t include granite), and kitchen floors. It may shock you to find out that it might be MORE dangerous to eat food that you just dropped on your floor in the kitchen then on a sidewalk. The study showed heightened levels of bacteria from cooking raw meat and poultry on kitchen floors and counters, enough to instantly contaminate items placed there. The result of such 5 second rule shenanigans could possibly be food poisoning.
Here are some figures from the report:
100 billion: The number of bacteria in our mouths.
100 trillion: The number of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts.
2.5 billion: The number of bacteria found in one gram of garden soil.
7.2 billion: The number of germs in the average kitchen sponge.
25,000: The number of germs, per square inch, on an office telephone.
49: The number of germs, per square inch, on a toilet seat
Scary stuff, but avoidable if you don’t eat whatever’s on the floor of your kitchen. Be safe!