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5 Second Rule: Fact or Fiction?

Malinda Groenig

So, you were lucky enough to get the last Mills Heirloom chocolate chip cookie at Founders. As you're walking down the hill, loving that buttery edge and sweet gooey center, it drops on the floor. "Five second rule!" you and your friends exclaim, making you feel not gross at all picking it up from the ground, blowing on it a little and eating that treat.

The five second rule isn't really a rule at all; it's a common misconception that food dropped on the ground has five seconds before it becomes too

dangerous to eat. Sometimes the five second rule is even extended to ten or fifteen seconds.

According to a study on the five second rule in 2003 by high school senior and 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for Public Health Jillian Clarke, women are more likely to use the five second rule. The study also found that the rule is a myth and is most often used with candy and cookies rather than broccoli and cauliflower.

"If it's chocolate, even if it falls in the road, I pick it up- no problem," said MBA student Bulbul Goswami, who had never heard of the five second rule because she grew up in India, where she learned never to waste food. "People don't get food enough; you just don't let it go. Its not something I should do, it's just my habit. I totally forget the hygiene part."

The truth is, eating most foods off most floors isn't so bad. Because floors are dry and bacteria dwells in damp areas, the supply of germs on the ground isn't high enough to be dangerous, according to Clarke's research and an article by the Agricultural, Consumer, and Environment Sciences' News. After testing floors all over the campus at the University of Illinois and finding little contamination, Clarke swabbed various tiles with E. coli, which made food dangerous to eat in under 5 seconds.

Clearly, some floors are not as safe to eat from as others.

"I don't think the five second rule applies in hospitals," said Charles Margolis at the Center for Food Safety in San Francisco. "There are massive amounts of bacteria in hospitals; I think the zero second rule applies."

At Mills the rule seems to be applied less according to the cleanliness of the floors, and more according to the availability of good food.

"Candies I will definitely pick up," said junior Emily Wilheim. "Anything that I feel can be brushed off."

Students who spoke with the Weekly proved Clarke and Angle's study accurate: candy and chocolate are always more likely to be eaten off the floor.

Junior Rachel Howard said she's more likely to eat food off the ground when she's at school, where she has to pay for her own food. "At home [the rule is] if it's chocolate pick it up, but if it's anything else let the Hoover get it. Or the dog."