Sunday, May 13, 2007

The 5-second rule, explored

Dan sent me this NYTimes article about the 5-second rule. This is the urban myth that if you pick something up within 5 seconds after dropping it, it's still safe to eat.

It says the first academic reference to the study was in 2003, but I disagree. Someone at the 2000 (or was it 1999?) Thunderbird High School Science Fair did it. It was a neat little experiment. They dropped things on the floor for varying time intervals and then measured the number of bacteria colonies in a petri dish. They found that regardless you're going to get some bacteria. I knew more details back then, but I basically ignored science once I got through with AP Biology there (the teacher, Gene Mason, retired that year to become a wine expert at AJ's Fine Foods. That should tell you something).

The NYTimes article says that you do get bacteria after 5 seconds, albeit less than after longer, but that regardless you only need a few bacteria to get sick so it's not a good idea. The myth was never really serious science anyway, but rather a witty response to someone's consternation for your eating something that fell on the floor.

My own version of the 5-second rule is that if it's wet or sticky, I don't eat it after dropping it. But if it's dry and clean, I'll go for it.


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