Despite the Science Behind “The Five Second Rule” As To Whether or Not To Eat Food Dropped Five Seconds Or Less, This Grandma Finds It Depends on Whether It is the First Child Or Not

Five Second RuleThe Today Show on March 29, 2016 recycled a story reported on in 2014 about a study done by Aston University that there may be some scientific basis to “The Five Second Rule” that it is fine to eat food that has only had contact with the floor for five seconds or less.  This Grandma traced the segment to where you can read the entire study summary and background on ScienceDaily here.

The research had two parts.

First there was a study done by final year biology students, and led by Anthony Hilton, Professor of Microbiology, at Aston University on common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (yuck!) and different foods dropped on different surfaces.  They dropped toast, pasta, a biscuit and a sticky sweet something onto carpet, laminate and tile, and monitored the bacteria at intervals from three to thirty seconds.

The results showed that the following is important to note with regard to whether there is an actual infection risk from eating the dropped food:

  1. Time the piece of food is on the floor.

2. Type of flooring upon which the food has been dropped.

This Grandma was shocked at one of the results.  Yes, with common sense, time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from the floor to the food and “The Five Second Rule” is not a myth with regard to the less time on the floor the better.  Yes, whether the food dropped is moist and sticky matters. However, this Grandma would have guessed that it was better to eat food that fell on laminate and tile than carpet.  After all, carpet is only vacuumed, and floors are mopped.  The results of the study showed that bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact with the floor for more than 5 seconds.  Amazing!

The study results assured those who have been adhering to “The Five Second Rule” that they may be okay using it, depending on the considerations above.

Second, the Aston University students also did a survey and found:

“87 percent of people surveyed said they have or would eat food dropped on the floor; 55 percent of those people are women.  Of the women who would eat food picked up off the floor, 81 percent of them would follow the five-second rule.”

The Today Show website quoted, Dr. Richard Martinello, medical director of infection prevention at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, that “The Five Second Rule” is real “but whether it constitutes good guidance is questionable,” and the circumstances matter.  “In short, dry items, when in contact with another surface, pick up less contamination than wet items and, of course, not all surfaces are the same – some are relatively clean, and others relatively (or really) dirty,” according to Dr. Martinello to, who added, “[F]inally, the longer something is on a surface, the more likely it will become contaminated, but whether five seconds is the proper dividing line between something dropped being acceptable or unacceptable is not perfectly clear.”

Dr. Martinello, adding to the study, seems to have three more common sense considerations important to note with regard to whether there is an actual infection risk from eating the dropped food:

3. Whether the food dropped wet or moist.

  1. Whether the floor was wet or moist.

5. Whether the floor was clean or dirty.

This Grandma loved his conclusion and last to consider:

“How bad do I really want what was dropped and how much risk is acceptable?”

This is the bottom line, from this Grandma’s experience, and despite the science behind  “The Five Second Rule” as to whether or not to eat food dropped five seconds or less, whether to eat food dropped five seconds or less, depends on whether it is the first child or not in the family.  Remember the results of the survey that, overall, everyone is inclined to use the “The Five Second Rule,” but we must remember that first parents are crazy cautious.

As a first time parent, this Grandma did not employ “The Five Second Rule.”  First parents boil everything–many times over.  Even clothing has to be washed in boiling hot water.  In this Grandma’s experience, all first parents will not employ “The Five Second Rule,”  for food, or anything else that may enter the baby’s mouth.      Everything and anything that goes into the first child’s mouth is examined and must be pure.  To give first parents credit, they have the time to be consumed with the first child. . . .at least until both return to full time jobs.  Then, they demand of their carefully selected caretakers the same scrutiny as they would provide the first child.

As new grandparents, we watch the first parents and smile.  This Grandma knows we must carefully, and with the same scrutiny as the parents, do as the parents say.  After all, the parents are the gatekeepers and we want access to our precious grandchildren.  We continue to do as the parents say, until, happily, the second grandchild arrives in the family and the first parents are no longer first parents.

This Grandma almost has come to believe that the first child and the second child have vastly different parents and that is part of the reason why the first child and second child in the family are so different.  This Grandma always tells parents, “having two children is more than double having one child.”  Think about it.

No longer is there any luxury of time.  The first child needs to be tended to as well as a newborn who is demanding twenty four hours a day.  The parents become sleep deprived, more than with the first child.  The tasks of parenting become overwhelming.  The second child can eat anything off the floor, and is lucky to get a quick diaper change.

“The Five Second Rule” becomes more than common sense.  The five considerations of the scientific studies and guidelines by medical professionals of the “The Five Second Rule” go out the window. “The Five Second Rule” becomes  a question of survival. . . .of the moment by the parent.

This Grandma remembers the day our youngest, as a baby, dropped her pacifier IN THE STREET and I picked it up, put it in my mouth to “clean” it, and put it back in her mouth, at which point she immediately stopped crying.  This Grandma remembers the day that our youngest child, now the mother of our youngest grandchild and her second child (having survived my cleaning of her pacifier) picked up her baby’s pacifier that had fallen IN THE STREET and put it in her mouth to ‘clean” it and put it back in the mouth of  the crying baby. . . who immediately stopped crying.

Need I say more!







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