It’s been nine years since a high school intern at the University of Illinois dared question pop-culture convention and test the so-called “five-second rule’’ - the one that says if food or utensils have been on the floor or ground for five seconds or less, they’re probably safe from unseen ick.
That test found, however, that even after just a second or two, food on the floor can pick up thousands of potentially unfriendly germs.
Ever since, dozens of doctors and scientists have argued - on both sides - that the five-second rule is misguided. Some contend that parents should never give a child something to eat that’s been on the floor. Others argue that 30 seconds or more should be the rule: dry food dropped on dry floors picks up far fewer germs than wet food and/or wet floors, they maintain, and generally takes longer to “attract’’ germs.
While academics continue to duke it out, more than a few parents seem to have embraced the five-second rule. A recent San Diego State University survey asked 500 parents where they stood. Three hundred twenty-five, or 65 percent, said they practiced the five-second rule.
And in a lively recent exchange on Yelp.com, the amateur critics’ site, more than 60 Boston-area people who identified themselves as parents of young children, aunts, uncles, nannies, or close friends of parents, debated the pros and cons of the five-second rule. With just three exceptions, they agreed it’s OK to practice the five-second rule, with conditions.
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