The Final Answer: Can You Keep Eating The Food After Dropping It?


Do you follow the five-second rule - the guideline that says it's okay to eat food from the floor if you pick it up right away? You may have also read or heard about the study debunking the five-second rule. It said that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it.

What should we do then? Let's hear the advice of a doctor, who seems to have a different approach to the question.


Can we eat dropped food or not?

Yes, you can, according to Aaron E Carroll, Indiana University's Professor of Pediatrics, who says he eats food that's been on the floor - rejecting the advice of a recent study that suggests food dropped on the floor will pick up any bacteria in just one second, rather than five.

And while he acknowledges that food does pick up bacteria as soon as it's come into contact with it, he says food could be contaminated as easily on the floor as by touching other household items before handling food.

"There are so many places in your house that pose more of a concern than the floor."

He says there are far dirtier places in a typical house than the floor - such as the handle of a fridge, the kitchen sink and the kitchen counter, highlighting several studies that back up his claims.

"Our metric shouldn’t be whether there are more than zero bacteria on the floor. It should be how many bacteria are on the floor compared with other household surfaces."

Dr. Carroll says: "People react to news like this in one of two ways."

"One is to become paranoid about everything...The alternative is to realize that for most of us, our immune systems are pretty hardy. "

"We've all been touching this dirty stuff for a long time, without knowing it, and doing just fine."

To back up his point, he pointed to a study by Charles Gerba, a Professor of Microbiology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona.

In 1998, he and a team of researchers ran tests to see how dirty common household surfaces and items were.

The results were disturbing:

While the kitchen floor harbored, on average, about three colonies of coliform bacteria, the fridge handle had just over five colonies per square inch, while the kitchen counter had even more at 5.75 colonies per square inch.

Dr. Carroll says the best way to ensure you don't get ill from these bacteria is to simply wash your hands before eating food.

"Either way, make an informed judgment based on relative risks, not on any arbitrary span of time that one thing has been touching another."

But still, don't be like Joey!

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