While picking a broken piece of cookie off the carpet while watching TV the other night, (of course I was going to eat it) I heard and seen the Pickle Queen spill the container of chocolate covered almonds on the kitchen floor. I couldn’t help but notice her gather up the wayward almonds and put the ones that survived her eating them back into the container.
I grew up with the 5 second rule, but realize there are other time limit variations (3 second, 10 second, etc.) out there. What ever rule you follow, the general premise is that bacteria won’t contaminate the food in that short period of time. If the right ‘food’ was dropped while I was growing up, I had to be fast in order to beat my brother and sisters from getting to it first. So, I didn’t think twice about the cookie or almonds.
One of the most harmful bacteria present in our homes is Salmonella typhimurium which is found in the digestive tract and scat (feces) of animals and can end up in our food. There are other strains that are also dangerous, but Salmonella is the most common one we hear about.
By eating raw or undercooked food, the Salmonella bacteria, when present in large enough numbers in the food, may cause sickness. True, the acid in our stomachs may kill many bacteria, but the ones that survive will move to and survive in the small intestine, causing inflammation leading to cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
You may not ingest raw/undercooked food directly, but remember, the Salmonella bacteria can live up to 4 weeks on a dry surface in our homes. Other bacterial strains have similar survival rates. We may get ‘sick to our small intestine” sometime later after the bacteria was introduced into our living space.
Tests using the 5 second rule showed that a piece of bologna dropped onto tile, carpet and wood that were contaminated with the Salmonella typhimurium bacteria gave the following results:
Tile – nearly 99% of the bacteria transferred
Carpet – 0-5% of the bacteria transferred
Wood – 5-68% of the bacteria transferred
A second study shows that wet food, such as pastrami, picked up much more of the bacteria as compared to a dry food, like a saltine cracker. Similar results were obtained using both the 2 and 6 second rule. This shows that it’s not the amount of exposure time but how wet the food was.
Another test dropped apple slices and Skittles on an ‘everyday environment’ to see how long it took for them to become contaminated. Results showed that regardless of time exposed, (5, 10 or 30 seconds) no Salmonella were transferred. Yet another test using many strains of bacteria, has shown contamination after only 2 seconds of contact.
I guess what time length you use isn’t that important. Which bacteria is present, the wetness of the food dropped and the type of surface on which the food was dropped are the important factors.
I feel safer having eaten that cookie piece than I do when I consume those wayward almonds that were put back into the canister.
Keep your fork