This evening I attended an event for a culinary organization I belong to, the Portland Culinary Alliance. Though a fun time mingling and getting to know the myriad of acquaintances in attendance a bit better, the eating of food and sipping of libations was, at times, sort of a challenge. At one point in the evening I was sitting with a sparkling wine glass in one hand and an appetizer plate on my lap when one of my new most favorite people was chatting with a couple sitting next to me. It was Cole Danehower, Co-Publisher and Wine Editor of Northwest Palate magazine. Cole is the type of person who one meets and instantly wants to become best friends with. He's incredibly knowledgeable about all things wine, humble and just an all around fun guy to be around. Am I gushing? I told myself I wouldn't gush. Honestly, I have been around Cole more than once and I really do want to be his new best friend. Am I reaching stalker level? Ok. I'll stop. Anyway, back to drink in hand and plate on lap...
In the mist of attempting to juggle the contents in my hand and lap, my fork slid gracefully off of my appetizer plate and onto the floor between my black-heeled boots. I quickly leaned forward and remarked, "Oh! Five-second rule!" And you know what? My new best friend defended me. Not only was Cole gracious enough to assure me I wasn't completely nuts in regards to the the five-second rule, he proceeded to tell me that there was actually a study done not long ago that proved the five-second rule to be--pretty much--true! According to Cole, the study reported that five seconds is about the longest amount of time an item can remain on the floor until a harmful amount of bacteria accumulates on it. Five second or less, you're good with a light rub against a napkin.
Upon arriving home I had to check this out. I Googled "Five-second rule" and sure enough, I received a few links that discussed the claim. One happened to support it, the other was a bit more cautious.
According to a study discussed briefly in The Boston Globe in May 2007, students at Connecticut College conducted research involving the dropping of food and whether or not it could pick up the "rogue" bacteria. I'm not for certain why they chose to focus in on rogue bacteria, but that was the bacteria of choice for these researchers. They came to the conclusion that patrons could actually wait as long as 30 second, pick something up off the floor and still eat it without obtaining harmful bacteria. Now even I think 30 seconds is a bit too long, my friends. Five seconds, ok, but 30? Yikes.
The second study I came across was posted in The New York Times, also in May of 2007 and written by Harold McGee. His article referred to a study done by Clemson University. This study was a bit more conservative and basically stated that harmful microbes are all around us; on the ground, on our tray tables on the airplane, in the air. The conclusion of the article was more of use your own judgment, but rest assured you'll be inputting some type of bacteria into your mouth!
The five-second rule. Who hasn't come across it? It's just a part of our dining culture don't you think?
Keep enjoying those good eats, just try to wax the floor beforehand!