The Three-Second Food Rule. What’s the Real Deal According to the Experts?

For parents, I’m sure this sight is all too familiar. Baby is holding his food gingerly. Before long the food drops to the floor. But oh, it’s the last piece of his favorite food. So moms, what do you do when this happens?

    a. Throw it away. No way will my baby eat food that has been dropped on the floor!

    b. Dive and grab it as quickly as I could! As long as it’s not on the floor for three seconds then no harm done to my baby.

I confess I belong to the second group. I believe in the three-second rule. I just dust it off and give it back to my baby and hope that it hasn’t been contaminated by anything dirty on the floor. Besides it breaks my heart to hear even the slightest whimper so I give in easily. So far he hasn’t been sick of anything serious so I can’t help but believe in the three-second food rule. But sometimes I wonder, “Am I just waiting for accident to happen?” Or worst, “Am I risking the life of my baby by giving him food that dropped off the floor albeit just momentarily?”

To answer these age old questions a team of scientists from Manchester Metropolitan University set out to enlighten poor parents all over the world. They dropped five common food items on the floor at three, five, and ten second intervals. These items were:

  • Bread with jam
  • cooked pasta
  • ham
  • a plain biscuit
  • dried fruit

And finally, what we’re waiting for – THE Findings:

  • Processed foods like the ham are less likely to be contaminated. The likely reason because nitrates and salt in the ham prevent bacteria from growing.
  • Food high in sugar like the bread with jam or salt content like ham are less likely to be contaminated. The reason: environments with high sugar and salt concentration is not suitable for bacterial growth.
  • Food with low water content like biscuits are safe because of their low adhesion capability meaning bacteria was not able to “hold on.”
  • Meanwhile, the cooked pasta and dried fruit were contaminated with yeast and a harmful bacteria called Klebsiella even after being dropped on the floor. The pasta was contaminated with Klebsiella even after only three seconds of dropping while the dried fruit was contaminated within five seconds.

So now that they have actually done a study I can now breathe a sigh of relief. I won’t feel as guilty anymore when I pick Zack’s biscuit from the floor as long as I can pick it up quickly. I also have to note that picking “sticky food” is a no-no since bacteria can transfer quickly.

But the biggest lesson of all is we have to mop our floors at least once a day since real harmful microorganisms are in there. We might not see them but they’re as real as you and me.

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