Is The Five-Second Rule Valid? Depends On Who You Ask!

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CCSS NAS-6 Word Search

The five-second rule has been around for many years. According to age-old adage it is okay to pick up food that has touched the ground, as long as it is done within that time frame. But is it really? Depends on which scientific study you want to believe.

The two studies, one conducted in 2007 by Clemson University in South Carolina and the most recent one, by students and faculty at Aston University in Birmingham, England, used similar methods to investigate the issue. They both began by tossing food on three different floor surfaces - tile, laminate or wood, and carpet. However, while Clemson tested for just one bacteria - Salmonella typhimurium, and with just Bologna and bread, the Aston study involved a broader spectrum. The team not only tested for two kinds of bacteria - Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, but also, with foods ranging from dry toast to sticky candy. That's because they wanted to determine if food texture made a difference to the amount of bacteria picked up.

The results were similar in many ways. Both studies found that when food comes in contact with bacteria, the transfer is immediate. Also, the transfer is much larger when the food is dropped on tile, wood or laminate as opposed to carpet. Not surprisingly, moist foods like cooked pasta or candy are more efficient at picking up bacteria than foods like cookies or toast.

However, the conclusions the two researchers reached were drastically different. Professor Paul Dawson, the scientist heading the 2007 Clemson University study concluded that no matter what the surface or contact time, there is enough bacteria that was detected to make people sick. Not surprisingly, he recommends that anything that touches the floor should be immediately tossed.

Professor Johnson who led the Aston University study, the results of which were released on the school's website on March 10th, disagrees. He believes that the chances of picking up anything really nasty within five seconds, is very slim if you are in a place that you know is hygienically clean. Given that he has three young boys that are constantly dropping food, he can definitely attest to that. The professor does however recommend tossing food that falls in heavily trafficked places, like street sidewalks. That's because these areas have enough bacteria to make people sick, irrespective of how quickly the item is picked.

If you are one of those that diligently follows the five-second rule, don't fret. According to a survey done by the professor, a whopping 87% of people asked said they would or already had eaten food dropped on the floor. Of these 55% were women, 81% of which, had and will probably continue to follow the rule!


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Reading Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. What were the two studies testing for?
  2. How were they similar? How were they different?

Critical Thinking Challenge

Which of the two conclusions are you more likely to believe? Why?

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  • GigiWednesday, April 11, 2018 at 10:45 am
    I think its gross because like what if it was outside on the grass would you still pick it up that's gross
    • carzy guy Monday, March 26, 2018 at 5:44 am
      thank for leting me speak
      • carzy guy Monday, March 26, 2018 at 5:43 am
        why would you think you can pick some thing on the floor that you drop and then conut 12345 what if you drop on the bathroom floor you going to pick it up
        • school dudeThursday, January 25, 2018 at 8:49 am
          very intristin
          • CrazyCatLadTuesday, December 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm
            Based on my sister its not gross at all...
            • #WordCrimesMonday, December 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm
              What about 1 week rule? You know that piece of cake has been there longer than 5 seconds, but do you really care?
              • loveing girlFriday, October 13, 2017 at 4:58 pm
                omg lol!!!
                • JOHNFriday, October 13, 2017 at 8:21 am
                  • littleriver
                    littleriverMonday, October 2, 2017 at 10:07 am
                    I thought it was 1-day rule.
                    • ?><Monday, October 2, 2017 at 9:54 am
                      umm nasty

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