The How Many (?) Second Rule
You’ve probably been there lots of times. Something you have been savoring for so long is about to make its way to your mouth and then pow wow, by some twist of fate which is liable to make you irredeemably irritated it drops to the floor. Some of us count our losses and make do without that treasured treat. Other people have a timer rule, which I have heard ranges from 4 -20 seconds. The rule governs the amount of time required for a piece of food to remain on the floor before those deathly germs which can do harm to you once you consume it, crawl all of over it, rendering it inedible. There’s an on-going controversy, as to how long it will take for theses germs to unleash their potent poison onto that piece of food, you had been longing to savor, while some people swear it is 5 seconds, others are sure less than 20 seconds. In other words, if you count steadily and pick up the piece of food before you count to 20, you should be fine. Well, the experts, in the form of Paul Dawson, a food science professor have weighed in on the issue and the verdict *(drum roll please)* is zero. That’s right! If that piece of cheese cake which you swear will deliver untold delight to your palate falls to the ground all the bacteria and salmonenlla do not need advance notice of 20 seconds to crawl all over it. Apparently, ‘they can survive for up to four weeks on dry surfaces and transfer to food immediately upon contact.’ The good news though is that most of these germs are pretty harmless and rarely lead to illnesses (although, I say that with caution, watch the surface that your tasty treat falls on and weigh the consequences of a few minutes of untold delight to weeks of illness and ingesting pills which don’t taste as nice). In that case, I guess it’s still okay to count to twenty, even if it only makes you feel better.
Source: National Geographic July 2010 edition
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