The Three-Second Rule

23 Apr

As a kid, I grew up eating stuff that had the three-second rule applied to it – usually toast. You know the rule: if food falls on the floor, it’s OK to eat it if it’s been only been on the floor for 3 seconds or less. I must have scraped the equivalent of several pounds of fluff off innocent pieces of toast. Pieces of orange or apple got quickly rinsed under the kitchen tap. My mum’s motto was “Waste not, want not”, possibly taken to extreme.

There’s an article today on the top five food safety myths. Honestly, it’s a miracle that my brothers and I didn’t have galloping food poisoning through our childhood.

Seriously, in an average kitchen or dining room where people do not wear their outside shoes (ie everyone has slippers or bare feet), is the bacteria concentration sufficient to make someone keel over from eating toast that landed on the floor? I don’t have the lab facilities to hand to investigate this, nor does DH (he’s the practising scientist in our family).

I know that Mythbusters did an item on which way toast lands on the floor in season three but there were no bacteria counts. They did another test on the five-second rule contrasting bacteria counts from food left for 2 seconds and 6 seconds, finding that there was little difference. However, there was no distinction made between different floor surfaces. Must admit, I am a fan of How Clean is Your House? for the horror movie petri dishes from various corners of ill-repute in filthy houses. But they don’t do it on (normally) clean houses. ETA: Here is an article on salmonella transfer experiment.

I’ll leave the last word to the SMH article:

Of course, this [refutation of the three-second rule] does not apply to extremely yummy foods (e.g. chocolate) or expensive items such as truffles.


Posted by on April 23, 2008 in Food


4 responses to “The Three-Second Rule

  1. dianehk

    April 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Because we have livestock here, we don’t eat anything that falls on the kitchen floor. We wear different shoes and boots outside, but still the stuff can track in on our clothes.

    Even so, if Pixie sneaks something that she drops now and again, I’m not too worried. I’ve heard that kids who grow up in overly sterile surroundings tend to have far too many allergies because their immune systems don’t develop strength. And my great-grandma always used to say “We all eat a peck of dirt before we die” (that’s an old saying for sure); there must have been some wisdom in that.

  2. meowmie

    April 23, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Completely agree – it was the same at the farm for us. But when we moved into town, it was easier to quarantine farm boots and clothing – and save the new carpets LOL! I still remember having to skip inside wearing nothing but a T-shirt and knickers, having changed out of my filthy clothes on the verandah.

  3. meowmie

    April 24, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Also, the ‘eat a peck of dirt before you die’ saying has a lot of believers here. I’ve told DH that it shouldn’t mean Mimi eating that much dirt before preschool, however.


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