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The 'five second rule' debunked by science

Maybe you shouldn't pick that up (ThinkStock)

It's a debate that has divided many a happy household: is it safe to eat food that has been on the floor for less than five seconds?

If you are one of those people who will drop a piece of food, scream "Five second rule!", and then shove it in your mouth like it's not covered in bacteria, it's time to stop it right now, because science has finally proven that the so-called rule is not right.

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The YouTube science channel Vsauce has created a ten minute video which explains that there is no safe amount of time for a piece of food to be touching a soiled floor. As soon as your delicious sandwich/banana/éclair touches the ground — boom! — it is covered in bacteria. Wait a full five seconds and the food item, be it wet or dry, is already ensconced in anywhere from 150 to 8000 bacteria.

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And while less than five seconds on the floor does not make your food safe, time does matter: researchers found that leaving food that sits on the floor for a full minute will acquire ten times the bacteria of food that has only been laying there for a few seconds. Yuck!

The video draws on a wide range of sources, from the television program Mythbusters to the scholarly Journal of Applied Microbiology, and dispels other fascinating myths about the five second rule, such as the false notion that it is employed primarily by men. According to Vsauce, only half of men use the rule compared to 70 per cent of women.

Debunking the five second rule has certainly peaked public interest — Vsauce's video on the subject has garnered nearly five million views in just a week. Whether the evidence is strong enough to make women stop chowing down on soiled goodies is another matter completely.


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