Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Five-second rule not a sure thing

July 19, 2012

CHICAGO — If you believe conventional wisdom, you have about five seconds to pick up that piece of food that has fallen to the floor before its contaminated with any germs, according to a press release.

As it turns out, this long-held belief is closer to fiction than we''d like to think, as all items that come into contact with a surface pick up bacteria and dirt, the release stated.

"A dropped item is immediately contaminated and can''t really be sanitized. When it comes to folklore, the ''five-second rule'' should be replaced with ''when in doubt, throw it out,''" said Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA and medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System.

"If you rinse off a dropped hot dog you will probably greatly reduce the amount of contamination, but there will still be some amount of unwanted and potentially non-beneficial bacteria on that hot dog. Maybe the dropped item only picks up 1,000 bacteria, but typically the inoculum, or amount of bacteria that is needed for most people to actually get infected, is 10,000 bacteria — well, then the odds are that no harm will occur. But what if you have a more sensitive system, or you pick up a bacteria with a lower infectious dose? Then, you are rolling the dice with your health or that of your loved one," Parada, who admits to employing the five-second rule on occasion, added.

Click here to read the complete release.