In a new research from the Aston University in England, it was shown that food off the floor may be OK to eat without risking a bacterial infection. The researchers found that food that was dropped on the floor shows minor germs when picked up as quickly as possible and that the so-called five-second rule really does work.
The study was led by Microbiologist Anthony Hilton and performed by a team of microbiology students, testing how long it takes for bacteria like Staphylococcus Aureus and E. coli to transfer onto food that was dropped on the floor. The foods that were tested included pasta, sticky candy, toast and cookies and remained on the floor between three and 30 seconds. The results were surprising, considering that the famous five-second rule was never proven by researchers before.
Hilton says, “Of course it depends on which type of bacteria are on the floor when the foods were dropped and caution is always required; however, the study results gives some slight relief to those who have been applying the five-second rule without thinking about bacteria, while others have been treating it as a myth.” Hilton’s study shows that it does not only matter how quickly dropped foods are picked up from the floor, but it also matters what type of flooring the foods are picked up from. “The transfer of bacteria from indoor flooring is least likely, with carpet posing a much lower risk compared to tiled or laminated flooring,” he adds.
Researchers also completed a survey among people in England, asking if they are comfortable consuming foods that were dropped on the floor. Almost 90 percent said they have no problems with consuming dropped foods and surprisingly, 55 percent of these people were women. Those who participated the survey did not know whether food off the floor may be OK to eat.
Although Hilton’s study may show that the five-second rule really works, a previous study from the University of Arizona has shown that 90 percent of shoe soles contain fecal matters, stating that a spotless floor is still likely to be filled with bacteria. In addition, other studies say that a higher content of salt or sugar in foods are less likely to be infected with bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus Aureus and that extra caution is required when dropping fresh produce and meats. This may be related to the results of Hilton’s study, where mainly foods with high sugar contents were tested, such as pasta, candy and cookies.
Researchers have also investigated whether washing dropped foods may reduce the bacteria that were transferred, but this appeared to not reduce bacteria at all and is merely a psychological response which could not be supported by science.
Hilton’s study must be considered preliminary, as it is not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal; however, he and his team of researchers from the Aston University in England are confident that foods from the floor may be OK to eat without running a risk of bacterial infections, unless they are picked up as quickly as possible.
By Diana Herst