Friday, June 4, 2010

Five second rule

#56 Five Second Rule
The five-second rule is a fable, a childhood guise to satiate temptations and exculpate the guilt of eating food that has lost its clean. For the unfamiliar, five-second rule promulgates that; it is safe to eat food if it falls on a floor, provided it is recovered within five seconds. It has evolved within the matrix of various cultures and gastronomic literature. According to a legend, when Genghis Khan prepared food for his military, it was supposed to be impervious to spore or any decadence. The food was edible as long as the ruler allowed it was, for if the food was prepared for Khan, it was sacred and edible indefinitely. There are traces of the same in Russian literature as well.

The notion however puerile has many believers and it is not even a cult. A survey confirms that 70 percent women and 56 percent men in the States believe the same. There are a number of variations to it, like the food is safe as long as it remains in your sight, the Australian version extends to thirty seconds, there is another, that if you are intoxicated the rule extends to ten seconds or beyond. Some argue that it is so because the ingested alcohol increases the acidity in your stomach and helps extirpate those germs that the pie might have picked along.

Keeping aside the folk lore, a scientific insight seems to ridicule the five to filth notion. Jillian Clarke, a high school intern at the University of Illinois(2006) conducted the first experiments. A number of ceramic tiles were contaminated with E.coli bacteria, consequently food was placed on them for the mandatory five seconds and analyzed; the samples invariably picked up a noticeable amount of bacteria within five seconds. The researchers however, acknowledged the limitation that the concentrations on tiles were much more than what actually lurk on ordinary floors. The lab floors did not even have observable traces of the microbes under investigation.

An advanced research carried out by Prof. Dawson at Clemson University branched into a study involving salmonella on different surfaces viz. nylon carpet, wood and tile. The salmonella managed to survive for four weeks, carpets being the most congenial of these surfaces. Researchers then placed food on these surfaces for varying amounts of time. The bits recovered after five seconds contained ten times lesser bacteria than the samples analyzed after a minute. The stickiness for bacteria varied with moisture or succulence. But, how much of a microbe is safe for ingestion?

None, and that is as far as salmonella is concerned. Even tens of these can cause infection and illness, hundreds for E.coli. There are of course, different degrees of bacterial affliction for various foods, but by the time you are actually done thinking, chances are five seconds would be long gone.


  1. nice research work!!!!!

  2. Matter's worthy as usual, but didn't have to refer a dictionary for a change.... :)

    By the way, U don't follow dis rule, or do u...??? ;)