Features Hit-Or-Miss

Science Says ‘The Five-Second Rule’ Is OK, But Is It Really?

We’ve all heard someone shout, “Five-Second Rule!” as they witness part of their meal succumb to gravity and plummet to the floor below.

For decades, science has been trying to prove the Five-Second Rule exists. In 2003, a student participating in Hans Blaschek’s University of Illinois lab at the University of Illinois School of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Science reported that 70 percent of women and 56 percent of men were at least “familiar” with the Five-Second Rule.

Yet, we should know, regardless of how long food ends up on the floor, there’s going to be germs. So, why has this rule — which we use to dismiss the potential danger caused by ingesting some strain of harmful bacteria — existed for so long, and do we really think it’s true?


Science says, yes we do — and it actually might work.

A recent Rutgers University study, published in the American Society For Applied and Environmental Microbiology in September 2016 could prove why this unsanitary method of food consumption has become so widely recognized.

The study revealed that contamination rates varied depending on the food’s level of moisture and duration of contact with the surface. Rutgers University professor, Dr. Donald W. Schaffner, who is also an Extension Specialist in Food Science, authored the study.

Dr. Schaffner’s study was conducted by dropping sliced watermelon, slices of non buttered and buttered bread, and pieces of gummy candy onto stainless steel, tile, wood and carpet surfaces. After being dropped, the food was left on the surface for time intervals between less than one second up to 300 seconds

Carpet, according to the study, was the least conducive for bacteria.

“Carpet has very low transfer rates compared with those of tile and stainless steel, whereas transfer from wood is more variable. Dr. Schaffner said in a press release. “The topography of the surface and food seem to play an important role in bacterial transfer.”

To no surprise, Dr. Schaffner found that all food will become contaminated instantly. So, even though the Five-Second Rule will not save you from contamination, there is a decreased risk depending on the surface and a food’s water content.

So, the risk of contamination is scientifically proven to be less if you drop (and eat) a Pop Tart off the counter, versus scooping up your entire Chipotle Burrito Bowl from the floor — in five seconds and under.

This seems obvious, but gives the Five-Second Rule some legitimate hypothetical value.

Still, why do we continue to rationalize this type of risk when it comes to our food? Well, according to a food safety expert, it can depend on the type of food we eat, and the culture we live in.

“We’re familiar with eating foods that have been highly processed, and understand that it’s not natural,” Dr. Douglas Powell, a former food safety professor and publisher of the website BarfBlog, said in an interview with FOODBEAST.

“When food falls on the floor, we already know it’s not natural, so we disregard the risk. We just need to be smart enough to know that everything has different levels of sanitation.”

Culinary preferences change with the culture as well. In some cultures, food is consumed raw, without question, or fear of contamination.

Dr. Powell added, even though there are existing scientific studies dedicated to the Five-Second Rule — that prove its legitimacy — it does not mean it should become a standard practice.

From a food safety perspective, Dr. Powell estimates that a lot of people who abide by the Five-Second Rule may not consider the realistic dangers of contaminative stains of bacteria, such as E. Coli and Salmonella.

“It’s easy to underestimate the genetic susceptibility we have to deadly bacteria we ingest.”

Dr. Powell believes risk is a part of reality. Even something as simple as eating food off the floor has consequences. He credits the Rutgers research as legitimate, peer-reviewed scientific analysis.

However, Powell added, “Academics should not be to preach, but to provide information,” thus stressing the role of academic studies is to prove a hypothesis and make discoveries.


‘Just Ship It’ Three Words That Killed 9 And Landed This Peanut CEO In Jail For 28 Years


Seven years ago, an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in peanuts led to 700 people getting sick and left nine dead. Now, the former corporate CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America faces 28 years in prison because of it.

The salmonella outbreak was traced to a factory in Georgia that was run by the Peanut Corporation of America, NPR reports.

While companies have been found to release contaminated foods before, this instance, the company was aware that its product was contaminated prior to shipping it out to consumers. The PCA would allegedly retest batches of peanut products when it came out positive for salmonella until the tests were clean.

Guess they didn’t want to risk losing peanuts over something as trivial as salmonella contamination.

Investigators found one email in particular where a shipment of peanut products was put on hold and awaited results from a contamination test. Stewart Parnell, who was CEO at the time, was emailed about the situation and told the factory:

Just ship it.

This act of negligence, along with other criminal charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and selling adulterated foods all contributed to Parnell’s punishment.

The ground-breaking sentence Parnell faces are the harshest ever given to company executives connected to food-releated illnesses. Along with Parnell’s 28-year sentence, two other executives of the former company face major jail time.

The now-defunct peanut company served a variety of peanut-based products.


If You Shop at Trader Joe’s, You’ll Want to Read About this Hummus Contamination

Recalled hUmmus

Bad news hummus lovers. A batch of 14,800 pounds of hummus products are belong recalled due to a possible listeria risk. The voluntary recall was announced earlier this week after Texas health officials discovered the risk of contamination in Target Archer Farms Traditional Hummus.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can be spread through the consumption of contaminated food. Listeria can cause serious infection and even death in the young and elderly and those with weaker immune systems.

While no illness has yet been reported, consumers who have bought hummus products on the recall list can get a full refund at their place of purchase. Some of these products can be found at large chains like  Trader Joe’s, Target and Giant Eagle.

H/T USA Today Picthx FDA


This Drinkable Book Can Purify Contaminated Water Through Its Pages


The earliest food hack known to man was probably how to purify water. If you didn’t know how to make fire, you’d have to MacGuyver some sort of filter for your water to keep that woolly mammoth poop out. Luckily, we’ve advanced a tad bit since then and have developed some pretty cool filters for water. The Drinkable Book, for example.

Each page of the Drinkable Book acts as a water filtration device. The pages contain microscopic particles of Silver Nitrate, which helps kill about 99 percent of the contaminated bacteria as the water passes through. The pages of the book also contain text that explains basic safety skills (keeping water away from trash and feces) that help maintain a clean water supply. It costs only a few cents to produce each page and an entire book could provide a person with up to 4 years of drinkable water, with each page lasting 30 days.

While this sounds like both a practical and novel product, I can definitely see this become a necessity should (God forbid) the zombies take over. I’ll take 10, please.

H/T Ad Week


Subway Tells Foodbeast Garlic Bread Recall ‘Not Food Safety Related’

We should have known it was too good to be true.

Apparently Subway’s new garlic bread has been pulled from the assembly line due to “contamination.” A tipster screennamed “lubby” posted this warning the forums last Friday afternoon:

“This has not made the news yet, I checked. I work at Subway and we got an urgent message from Subway HQ to throw out any garlic bread plus the garlic butter topping. It was contaminated. Not sure how or what it was contaminated with. I wanted my fellow foodies to know in case they had some. The garlic bread was a new feature for September.”

It’s unclear whether the problems were  limited to any specific batch, but our local Subway in Santa Ana was not offering the garlic bread when we visited earlier today. A few comments have also appeared on the Subway Facebook page complaining about the garlic bread’s supposed contamination and unavailability (ex: A, B, C).

Garlic bread was just the second in a string of brand new menu offerings from the sandwich chain (the first being the Applewood Pulled Pork), so yeah, you could say we’re a little bummed, especially since it was just introduced September 1st.

So far, Subway has released this official statement:

“Our garlic bread seasoning was not being made to the specifications we required. Although it was not food safety related, we temporarily removed it from our bread offerings.  We’re working around the clock to get garlic bread back in your local Subway restaurant and it will be worth the wait.”

Which, okay, seems reasonable. Just hurry up and bring it back, would you Subway? We’re suffering from some serious QSR blue balls here.


Say It Ain’t So! Study Finds High Levels of Lead in Mexican Hot Sauces


Ugh, I hate when science ruins your favorite food.

Thanks to a study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, we now know that there are high levels of lead found in certain hot sauces imported from Mexico. Researchers gathered 25 brands of hot sauces from Mexico and South America, swooping them up from local ethinic markets. The collection included a variety of different manufacturers and sauce types, and each bottle was shaken for 60 seconds, then examined for lead concentrations and pH levels.

While four brands of hot sauces (16 percent) exceeded the FDA standard for unsafe levels of lead, 0.1 ppm, you can’t get the full results for two reasons: 1) It costs a hefty sum of moola 2) academic databases have to wait 18 months after the publication’s date to host their papers. Luckily, Gustavo over at the OC Weekly got a hold of a “piratería version of the report,” and was able to find the 5 most dangerous hot sauces from the study.

A quick note on the potential dangers of lead exposure:

  • Lead poisoning can cause detrimental effects on almost every organ of the body
  • Lead poisoning has been known to lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and even death among young children.
  • Although hot sauce isn’t generally consumed in large amounts by children, it may worsen their exposure when combined with exposure to lead-based paint (made before 1978) and lead-contaminated dust found in older buildings.

Check out the full list of the 5 Worst Culprits from UNLV’s study on lead contamination.

H/T + PicThx OC Weekly