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Five-second rule?

Ever dropped a cookie on the floor, yelled "five-second rule," then quickly picked it up and popped it into your mouth? You hope that five seconds on the floor wasn't long enough for your food to collect harmful bacteria. Jillian Clarke, a 16-year-old senior at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, decided to test the theory. She found that--if bacteria are around--five seconds is enough time for microorganisms to stick to your snack.

During a science internship last summer, Jillian experimented by dropping gummy bears and cookies on floor tiles she had coated with bacteria. After five seconds, some microorganisms had already transferred to the food.

The good news? When she sampled floors--even busy ones near vending machines--Jillian found surprisingly few bacteria. One possible reason: Bacteria need moisture to survive, and most floors are pretty dry.

That's why Jillian isn't usually afraid to retrieve a dropped treat from a dry floor. "But I'd be more likely to pick up a cookie than something wet and sticky," she says.

FALLEN FOOD: Jillian found that sticky foods, like gummy bears, pick up more bacteria from the floor than dry foods like cookies do.
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Title Annotation:Life/Bacteria; food dropped on the floor
Author:Norlander, Britt
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 12, 2004
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