According to a new study, the 5-second rule is just a myth. It seems that bacteria only need less than a second to attach itself to a piece of fruit or food. The researchers conducted extensive tests in order to reach this conclusion, so it’s safe to say that the myth was debunked.
A team of scientists from Rutgers University decided to test the famous 5-second rule. Donald Schaffner, the lead researcher and extension specialist and professor of food science at the New Jersey University, explained that the 5-second rule is nothing but an oversimplification of the process of the bacterial transfer process.
Schaffner declared in a Rutgers University press release that bacteria contaminates food almost instantaneously, so the 5-second rule is just an excuse invented by people who refuse to believe that their food is no longer edible.
During the experiments, the researchers dropped gummy candy, watermelon, and bread on various surfaces like carpeting, stainless steel, ceramic tile, and wood.
Next, the surfaces were contaminated with the Enterobacter aerogenes bacteria, a bacterium from the salmonella family. The now contaminated surfaces were left to dry before the food was dropped on it again.
The team analyzed the rate of bacteria transfer after the food samples were left on the surfaces for one, five, thirty, and three hundred seconds. They ran 2,560 measurements including 128 scenarios, each repeated 20 times.
While longer exposure did lead to a faster spread of germs, the researchers discovered that bacteria needed less than one second to infect the food. Moreover, the wetter the aliment, the bigger the chances of it being contaminated.
“Bacteria don’t have legs, they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.”
It seems that the watermelon samples were the most contaminated and gummy candy was the least contaminated. The wooden surfaces offered more variable results than any other surfaces, while carpet seemed to be the safest surface from which people could pick up food.
The cited study was published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology magazine.
Are you an enforcer of the 5-second rule? Will you still apply it after reading about this study?
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