Today’s Solutions: July 21, 2024

New findings out this week give messy eaters cause to celebrate. Researchers have confirmed the common lore that food dropped on the floor is less likely to pick up bacteria if it’s picked up quickly, giving credence to the “5-second rule.”

In a survey conducted alongside the experiments, 87% of respondents said they would eat food off the floor, and the majority also practiced the 5-second rule, even though there’s never been any real evidence to support it. To test the theory, students dropped different foods (pasta, toast, biscuit and sticky candy) on common floor surfaces for time periods ranging from 3 to 30 seconds and then measured levels of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that attached to it.

They found that the length of time the food rested on the floor, as well as the kind of food and the style of flooring, all affected the transfer of bacteria. The most bacteria accumulated on moist food left for more than 5 seconds on tile or laminate flooring. Carpet was the most resistant surface to bacterial transfer. Of course, the cleanliness of the floor would also be a major factor in the number and type of bacteria that can reach your food, and this research definitely does not prove the safety of eating from the floor in general. However, for those brave souls willing to take the risk (and the parents of children unaware of the risk), the premise that food left on the floor for a shorter time period is “cleaner” than food that sits longer seemed to be confirmed overall.

(Source: Aston University,

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