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Sunday, 10 May 2015

The '5-Second-Rule' - Would you eat food that dropped on floor?

by Jim Chan.

The ''5-Second-Rule'' has become a part of the food safety debate topic that scientists actually interested in testing it. The ''5-Second-Rule'' has been studied  by a number of researchers trying to determine if this is a myth. In 2006, a thorough study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology using Salmonella as a test contamination agent on different floor surfaces including wood, tiles, and nylon carpet. The research results indicated that the bacteria were still thriving after 28 days of exposure under normal condition and the bacteria could still contaminate food in under 5 seconds.

The "5-Second-Rule" in real life

This is an incident happened in the kitchen of a Toronto jail and published by the media in this Toronto Star News article.
''Staff members at a Toronto jail became sick after they were served chicken that fell on the institution’s kitchen floor, prompting an investigation by the provincial government and the city’s health inspectors. The incident at the Toronto South Detention Centre occurred during lunch hour on Feb. 22, confirmed Jim Chan, manager of food safety for Toronto Public Health. Chan said the jail’s kitchen manager “either tripped or slipped,” losing grip of an entire tray of jerk chicken. “For some reason someone picked it up and put the chicken back on the tray and it was served to the staff members working in the jail,” he said. Soon after, Toronto Public Health received reports from staff complaining of gastrointestinal illness symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting. The jail’s food service manager confirmed to health inspectors the chicken had fallen on the floor before being served.

“Dropping something on a dirty floor, it’s not a good food handling practice,” Chan said. Chan said the kitchen passed a subsequent health inspection. He could not confirm whether the illnesses were caused by the chicken, as leftovers are still being examined in a lab. He said the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is also conducting an investigation to determine who was responsible for serving the food. The incident occurred at the jail’s Toronto Intermittent Centre on Horner Ave. in Etobicoke, which is for prisoners on weekend terms.''

Ask a health inspector about restaurants and the ''5-Second Rule''

When a health inspector is inspecting a food establishment such as a restaurant, everyone from the dishwasher to the owner is on their best behaviour, and will never pick up any dropped food and re-using it. In my career as a health inspector for 36 years, I would like to think that people in the food business really believes the ''5-Second-Rule'', as most food business operators are concerned about lost profit and reluctant to throw away dropped food, even though they know the food safety risk. Remember the manager of the jail kitchen who dropped the platter of jerk chicken?

Health inspectors usually advice that any surface, especially floors in a food establishment, should not be considered clean, and any dropped food that comes in contact with a floor surface is contaminated. Just take a look at some of the evidence photos from my Health Inspector's Notebook.

Under a food preparation counter

Pests such as cockroaches and rodents often crawl on floor in kitchen

A dirty floor in a dirty kitchen

Food left on a dirty floor

Dirt, food waste and mouse droppings on kitchen floor

Grease, liquid waste, dirt on kitchen floor

My comment:

'' There is no 5-Second-Rule as germs do not have watches and they don't know how to tell time'' 

“Dropping something on a dirty floor, it’s not a good food handling practice.” 


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