Should we really pick up a food particle, no matter how tasty it is, which got slipped out of our hand and fell on the ground? Many go by the five-second rule (which says the food stays safe within that time frame) but there are others who don't think it is all a good idea and by putting a fallen food back into our mouth only prepares it for a disaster.
Why the five-second rule isn't ok
The five-second rule, which gave many a reason to go ahead with 'not wasting' the food, was actually put to scientific test, though informally. In a study that took place around 2003, some food items were dropped on the floor which were infected with E. coli germs and they were contaminated in less than five seconds. So the germs spread in no time and will not spare the food that you provide them accidentally.
In another study that was conducted around 2007, Salmonella - food-poisoning-causing bacteria were poured on various floors and then food items were dropped on them. It was seen that the food items picked up as many as 8,000 bacteria within a span of five seconds. It was also found that bacteria can survive on dry surfaces for several weeks and can contaminate food very fast.
This was again proved in another study which took place in 2016 at the Rutgers University.
Researchers dropped foods (watermelon, plain bread, bread having buttered surfaces and gummy candy) on four types of surfaces (word, ceramic tile, carpet and steel) that were contaminated with bacteria and kept for drying. Four different time periods were chosen for the foods to remain on the surfaces (less than a second; five seconds; thirty seconds and five minutes).
It was seen that the watermelon became the most contaminated one among all the four because of its moist nature while the gummy candy was the least affected. Also, the carpet had the lowest transfer of the bacteria. Hence, the nature of the food and surface on which it falls are also important.
It is better to let go the food piece which was not destined to go into your system. Sometimes, we pick up a food particle from a surface that looks apparently clean but there are bacteria that you can't spot with the naked eyes. It's better to get accustomed to the 'zero-second' rule.
Do not ever think that bacteria are kind-hearted by any means. Even 0.1 per cent of them on a surface is enough to leave you sick. Germs like E. coli are extremely dangerous and cause infection which can even be fatal for people who have a weak immune system.
There are endless numbers of bacteria all around
At any point of time that are nearly 10,000 different species of microscopic creatures floating all around in our homes. In fact, we ourselves are constantly shedding bacterial cells through our skins and the air that we breathe (38 million of them!). And in this sea of bacteria, never ever pick up a food particle which has been exposed to them.