The Secret to Eating by the '5 Second Rule' Without Getting Sick

spaghetti floorFor some reason I've always been skeptical of the 5-second-rule. Maybe it's because I don't mop my floors often enough or maybe I'm a teensy bit of a germophobe sometimes, but gross!

Why would I want to eat something that fell on the very same surface I just walked across in my tattered old Converse? Why not just eat off the bottoms of my sneakers as if they were plates? Hell, why not just eat my shoe?!

Anyway, turns out I was right to doubt the whole still-sanitary-if-under-5-seconds myth: According to a recent study, more bacteria sticks to food faster than most people think. (And not the "good" sort of immune system-strengthening bacteria, either.)

In just 3 seconds (less than 5!), some of the foods test-dropped on a dirty floor showed signs of klebsiella, a bacteria capable of causing a "wide range of diseases such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, septicaemia, and soft tissue conditions."

Mmm, tasty!

There is, however, a silver lining to this gray culinary cloud ...


You CAN get away with the 5-second-rule sometimes -- it all depends on what kind of food you're talking about. The study found that "foods with higher salt or sugar contents were less likely to pick up harmful bacteria." Specifically, a salty piece of ham and a sugary bite of bread and jam were practically klebsiella-free after 3 seconds on the floor.

Apparently high water content is what makes food a bacteria sponge: Cooked pasta, for example, was one of the worst offenders.

So if you insist on following the 5-second-rule, just remember: If it's not loaded with salt or sugar, don't eat it.

Hey, that's a pretty fun rule.

Do you follow the 5-second-rule?


Image via Mike Burns/Flickr

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