What Do You Do When You Drop Your Food? Do You Follow Five-second Food Rule?

Do You Follow Five-second Food Rule?

By now, many campaigns around the world have been launched to raise awareness about food waste. A report, published last year, shows that families in the UK throw away 24 meals a month, which is up to 4.2 million tones of food and drink that could have been consumed.

A study from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization found that the need to produce more and more food could be dramatically reduced by limiting food waste globally by 60 percent. In USA, 40 percent of food produced in America is thrown away. The truth is that we are buying more food than we could or would eat. What about the food being dropped? Do we eat it?

Researchers from Aston University’s School of Life and Health Science conducted a study about “5 second rule”. The scientists wanted to know more about the transfer of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus from different indoor floor types to food such as toast, pasta, biscuit and sticky sweets.

They found that the time represents a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from the floor to a piece of food, which is logical, and most of us knew this already.

However, more important finding is that the bacteria is less likely to transfer from carpet surfaces. When the food is in contact with laminate or tiled surfaces for more than 5 seconds, the bacteria is most likely to transfer. So, the type of flooring is very important, but we also knew that.

dropped food

“Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however, the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth”, said Antony Hilton, the professor of Microbiology at Aston University.

The team of researchers also wanted to know more about the people who employ the five-second rule, so they did a survey. The results showed that 87 % of people surveyed said that they would eat the food dropped on the floor, or that they have already eaten it, and 55 % of those that would eat or already have eaten the food dropped on the floor are women.

“Our study showed surprisingly that a large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so. But they are also more likely to follow the 5 second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives tail”, said Hilton.

So, the food that is left for a longer period of time is more likely to contain bacteria than the food that is picked just a few second after being dropped.

The conclusion is that we are buying the food we will eventually throw away, and we are still eating the food dropped on the floor.

Old habits die hard, however, we need to change the way we perceive both healthy eating and consumerism culture.

Source: Aston University. “Dropped your toast? Five-second food rule exists, new research suggests.” 10 March 2014.
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