Sunday, July 08, 2007

The 5-Second Rule: Myth or Reality?

I somehow missed this a few months ago, but evidently, some student researchers at Connecticut College are claiming to have debunked the famous "5-second rule for dropped food, but in a good way: Evidently, it can be up to 30 seconds for wet food and even longer for dry food before it will be excessively contaminated by bacteria. (By the way, the bacteria don't seem to care for Skittles candy all that much, as no sign of contamination was evident until five minutes after the candy was dropped.)

But on the other side of the coin, researchers at Clemson Unversity have come to the opposite conclusion: food dropped on a contaminated surface will become contaminated regardless of the time it spends there.

Not that either one of these studies is likely to change someone's mind, of course. Most people fall into either the category of those who will retrieve food off the floor and those who won't, no matter the length of time. Still, it's fun (even as an adult, in certain situations) to yell "5-second rule!" and see if the food-dropper actually retrieves the item or not (and, as the second linked story points out, it's even an act of kindness: "Go ahead. Eat it. I won't judge you.").

The "rule" is the subject of a post at Althouse, where the commenters are having fun with it. I agree with the general consensus that it's much more common (and less gross) to try and retrieve a "dry" item (cookie, potato chip) than a "wet" one (someone cites potato salad), and that the whole question is usually moot if an animal is present. Commenter Finn Kristiansen lays out a reasonable set of guidelines:
Wet recovery can only be attempted at home, and without guests. Dry recovery can only be done at home as well. There should never be public recovery, unless you have a kid and the ice cream ball on their cone falls off and you can put it back on without anyone noticing (toddlers and little people have remarkable recovery skills for eating floor dropped food).

At a friends house, they may recover dry things-fig newtons and such-though chip recovery (given the number of chips in a bag) seems a bit piggy. But close friends only.
The commenters also have fun speculating as to which Supreme Court justices and probable '08 presidential candidates would eat food that had been dropped on the floor.

So where do you fall in this spectrum? Do you follow the 5-second rule, will you let it go even longer than that before recovery, or does the whole idea just turn your stomach?

A "poler" bear: My traffic-reporter buddy Eric would get a kick out of covering a story like this: Traffic was stopped for miles in California as motorists stopped to gawk and take pictures of a bear that had climbed up a power pole by the side of the highway.

Brotherly not-so-love: A Florida man was charged with assaulting his brother with a garden gnome.

No comments: