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The zero-second rule


Every few years or so, someone checks out the veracity of the three-second rule (or the two-second rule or the five-second rule or however many seconds it is that you think it’s OK for food to sit on the floor before you pick it up and blow the germs off it), and the answer is always the same:


The latest debunking comes all the way from Down Under, where a listing of the Top Five Food Safety Myths ranks the three-second rule at the top.

tjndc5-5bhx7mjhm7kqh2ym6jw_original-2.jpgEven a nanosecond is enough for food to have a brief and fruitful affair with myriad bacteria that gets traipsed over the kitchen floor by footwear that has trodden upon footpaths, public toilet floors, train-carriage aisles and office carpet squares. The worst thing to do, says Lydia Buchtmann, of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), is to pick up food from the floor and slip it into something that will not be cooked, such as a salad or a dessert: “The bugs picked up can grow to dangerous levels very quickly and give you food poisoning.”

Of course, as the author of this feature points out, chocolate, truffles and other treats (particularly expensive ones) are exempt from the rule.


Not really, but we have the very good fortune of living with my mother-in-law, who is VERY clean and makes sure the floors are spotless. And we don’t wear our shoes past the front door, so it’s just our stinky feet and socks on the floors.

OK, not saying that our feet are necessarily perfectly clean at all times (but maybe they are….) but my mother-in-law is really clean.

Besides, I truly believe a little dirt never hurt anyone. Didn’t these people ever eat mud pies as children?

Just quickly, these are the other four top food myths:
• Seafood is dodgy (just don’t leave raw seafood out of the fridge for hours; it’s “no more likely to cause food poisoning than other meats…”)
• It’s OK to leave cooked rice/pasta out of the fridge (bacteria can germinate on any cooked food, and “[r]eheating or lightly cooking the food will not destroy this toxin. Cooked food should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than two to three days.)
• Dairy products cause phlegm (not supported by scientific evidence, according to “a comprehensive review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. After analysing available scientific research on the topic, the authors concluded that milk intake was not associated with nose symptoms, cough or congestion.”)
• Mould on cheese and jam is not dangerous (if it’s not “supposed” to be moldy – think Roquefort or gorgonzola or the like – it’s not supposed to be moldy)

2006 Journal News photo by Dave Kennedy; it’s not my family. And I have no evidence that this family eats food that’s fallen on the floor. But they’re an awfully cute bunch, aren’t they?

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2008 at 5:31 pm by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: 2-second rule, cleanliness, food safety, myths