Food For Thought
I'll Eat Most Anything Off The Floor
Five second rule is more legend than myth - But who's counting, anyway?
October 8, 2004
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By: O. J. Cunningham
The five (5) second rule was invented by people (like me) that can't actually hold a handful of anything without some of it dropping on the floor.
This list includes: peanuts of any kind, M&M candies of any color, potato chips (unless they're stacked like pringles) and things like corn-on-the-cob, any fruit smaller than a fifty-cent piece and most eating utensils.
The five (5) second rule has become a recent focus because a young lady named Jillian Clarke recently won The Ig Nobel award in public health for her investigation into the "five-second rule," which says that food dropped on the floor is safe to eat as long as it's picked up within five seconds.
This line of research is similar in thesis to that well-known, but seldom quoted rule of thumb that states: any food eaten over the sink has "zero" calories.
But I digress. The recent 14th annual Ig Nobel awards, handed out by Nobel Prize winners in early October, recognize scientific research that "makes you laugh, then makes you think," said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, which gives out the award.
Ms. Clarke's research showed many floors had surprisingly little bacteria. The conclusion: If the floor is clean, it's safe to eat what's dropped on it, even after five seconds.
Editor Abrahams said Clarke's research also studied how the sexes reacted to dropped food.
According to Clarke, "A lot more women than men will pick up food from the floor and eat it when they dropped it," Abrahams said. "That's unexpected." (Gee, Marc, do you really think so.)
Unexpected? That's an understatement! I've never seen a woman eat anything off the floor. Ever! Anywhere! Women don't eat off the floor. It's genetic.
Many feel that the five (5) second rule and its idiological sister legend - the over the sink theory - are pure myth.
A myth, according to www.fact-index.com is a story which has deep explanatory or symbolic resonance for a culture.
Fact-Index.com says that the term (myth) is sometimes used pejoratively in reference to common beliefs of a culture or for the beliefs of a religion to imply that the story is both fanciful and fictional. But even historical facts can serve as myths if they are important to a culture.
So there you have it from a reliable source that brings everything into focus. There is no question in my mind. Eating off the floor is important to our culture.
My dad used to tell me that I would eat 100 bushels of dirt before I died. Armed with that image, it hardly seems to matter what's invisibly stuck to a tasty M&M just fetched from under the couch.
But more importantly, I feel the most significant issue was not even addressed in Ms. Clarke's research. In this writer's opinion, it's not how long the food has been on the floor . . . but when do you actually start the five second count?
Do you count when you first notice gravity's influence? Or do you start the count when you first begin to consider the possibliity of actually eating off the floor?And doesn't it REALLY come down to who's watching?
There is a tremedous margin for slop here. We definitely need more research. I think I'll give Ms. Clarke a call in the morning. I want to know why she didn't call me during her investigation.
Columns Article 570
O. J. Cunningham
O. J. Cunningham is the Publisher of MyBayCity.com. Cunningham previously published Sports Page & Bay City Enterprise. He is the President/CEO of OJ Advertising, Inc.
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