2 students give the 'Five-Second Rule' the old college try

Let's imagine that in the midst of the gluttony at your holiday cookout this weekend - oh, I'm not saying you're a glutton, it's the others you're with - a hot dog rolls off the grill and lands on the deck or patio.

For an instant everyone freezes, seemingly paralyzed with indecision.


But not you.

No, you're a man of action. Or a woman of action. (Don't take that the wrong way.)


Anyway, invoking the legendary Five-Second Rule, which states that food that falls on the floor is safe to eat as long as it's picked up within five seconds, you snatch up the hot dog and wolf it down.

The others stare at you in horror.

But you don't care.

You smile, give them a big thumbs-up and go back to your beer or wine.

Because you know this: Science is on your side.

How do you know this? Because a pair of recent graduates in cellular and molecular biology at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., say they've proven the Five-Second Rule is legit - and that's good enough for you.

The two crack Five-Second Rule researchers are Nicole Moin, 21, and Molly Goettsche, 23, who tested it for a project in their microbiology class.

Oh, you go ahead and rip today's college students for being lazy, apathetic and interested in nothing more than the usual keg-party debauchery and running up daddy's credit card balance.


But as long as there are brave, dedicated students doing the kind of groundbreaking research that Moin and Goettsche did, well, I'd say the college youths of America are doing just fine.

(Look at me, I'm getting all misty-eyed here.)

Moin and Goettsche chose to study the Five-Second Rule because "we had both finished our senior theses, and we wanted to do something a little more lighthearted and fun," Moin said over the phone from her home in Westwood, Mass.

Dropping food on the floor from a table - how much more fun can you have?

At least when you're sober?

So they went to the main dining hall at Connecticut College, and also to the snack bar in the student center, to conduct their research.


They dropped apple slices to test wet food.

They dropped Skittles candy to test dry food.

They let each food stay on the floor for five, 10, 30 and 60 seconds, and then for five minutes.

Then the apple slices and Skittles were swabbed and placed onto agar plates, which culture any bacteria that might be found on the food.

In the midst of all this serial food-dropping, I asked Moin, did all the other students join in?

Did some sort of crazy Animal House food fight break out, with the offenders paraded afterward in front of Connecticut College's version of Dean Vernon Wormer for a good, stern tongue-lashing?


"We were at a back table and I don't think many people noticed us," Moin said. "And if they did, they didn't have the guts to ask us what we were doing."

Oh. Bummer.

Anyway, here are the results of the big Five-Second Rule research project - and you'll want to post this somewhere, maybe on your refrigerator at home or somewhere in the office canteen where all the slobs eat.

No bacteria were found on the foods dropped on the floor for five, 10 or 30 seconds.

After a minute on the floor, the apple slices did show signs of bacteria.

But the Skittles didn't show any bacteria until they had remained on the floor for five minutes.


OK, to me, this says something about Skittles.

It may not be reassuring to all those parents whose kids root under the sofa cushions and eat Skittles that have been buried there for months with old coins, paper clips and dog hair.

On the other hand, if you're laying in emergency supplies for a hurricane or tornado or something, instead of just bottled water and canned goods, I'd lay in a three-month supply of Skittles, too.

Anyway, Moin and Goettsche say this proves a person can wait at least 30 seconds to pick up wet foods and over a minute to pick up dry foods.

Which means it reaffirms the sanctity of the Five-Second Rule.

Knowing this, I think all of us will rest easier from now on.


As for our faith in higher education, well, that's certainly been affirmed, too.