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May 18, 2007

Researchers: 'Five-Second Rule' for Dropped Food More Like 30


5seconds1.jpgTwo Connecticut College students, in the course of a "casual science investigation," have found that you have at least a minute to gobble fumbled food before colonies of bacteria begin forming. In other words, the 5-second rule for dropped food should really be more like a minute or more, with dry food having up to 5 minutes before bacterial colonies begin to form.

In a resounding repudiation of the ubiquitous bit of folk wisdom known as the "five-second rule," two Connecticut College students found in a class project that you have at least a minute to gobble fumbled food before colonies of bacteria begin forming.

And when the dropped snack is dry, you may have up to five minutes - even if the morsel falls upon such a forbidding surface such as the floor of the school cafeteria, said Molly Goettsche, a senior who tested the five-second rule in a casual science investigation with fellow senior Nicole Moin.

"After spending four years here, the cafeteria is the last place where I would ever eat something off the ground," said Goettsche, a graduate of The Morgan School in Clinton who will graduate from Connecticut College Sunday with a degree in biology.

The duo, at the suggestion of their teacher, Anne Bernhard, an assistant professor of biology at Connecticut College, set out to test the real-life application of the five-second rule - also known on some college campuses as the "10-second rule if you are drunk."

The results, while not scientific, should provide some comfort to food scoopers.

In the interest of caution, irregardless of the results of the students' experiment, I'd be more than a bit concerned about the particular surface and its location, and the possibility of gross contamination. The degree of contamination and the agent(s) involved could significantly alter timing reported by the students. Colony growth is one thing, pathogenicity and count could be quite another.

And then there's the not so little matter of viruses, which the students did not consider in their experiment.

Posted by Richard at May 18, 2007 8:18 AM


Posted by: tommy at May 18, 2007 12:58 PM

Hi Tommy, long time no hear...

Apparently you spotted the student's rush to conclusions, yourself.

Posted by: Richard at May 18, 2007 2:37 PM

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