How I Lost 12.5 Pounds & Regained My Soul

Naked, as in truth, and uncensored, I share my daily quest to survive as a woman and artist, while dealing with the complications of a full life, meddling in politics, loving my children to excess, totally permanently married and on a never-ending diet. While my soul is in constant need of repair and redemption, I struggle to do the right thing. In the meantime, let's all double the love. (Love, not sex, you fool). All posts are copyrighted material.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The 5-Second 'Dropped Food' Rule...

Good morning, my fluffy little joeys~

If I made the comment, things have changed since I was a kid, it would not be an understatement. However, there is one change that I have always believed to be incredibly unhealthy. The notorious '5-second' rule. What's that? Well, the concept is that if you drop something you are eating, as long as it is retrieved within five seconds, it is okay to eat it.

My first exposure to this was when my son was in elementary school. I had properly taught both our kids that if it dropped, it was trash. Ergo, there were some tears but the children survived.

The experience of living in Mexico City when the second one was born had given me a different insight than the normal American might have. Developing countries have food supply isses and water contamination issues, just like any place perhaps, but in greater quantity. We put our fresh fruits and vegetables into a solution to kill bacteria, added chlorine drops to drinking water or boiled it, which we used to brush our teeth, and we spent an inordinate amount of time washing hands.

Both kids got E.coli anyway, at the age of one and five, as some of the contaminants were airborne. There's no way to protect from that, my friends. I had gotten amoebas and salmonella while I was pregnant, but had to wait until I delivered before I could be treated.

Is it any surprise that when we returned to the United States after three years, my two-and-a-half year old at first refused to play with shaving cream (a fun activity for the rest of the kids) or ever put his hands in the 'mud' the preschool teacher thought he should be enjoying like the other little piggies? We had standards, mano.:)

Anyway, even after traumatizing my children - particularly my darling daughter - with the international moves out and back, only she seems to regard the 5-second rule as pure insanity. I would imagine that my son, rebel that he is, eats with his fingers to torture me, but I blame myself. There were too many dinners dominated by demands that he 'use his napkin' and 'don't eat with your fingers'.

And my husband started that business anyway. A lot of the food he likes is eaten with fingers, as he is essentially not an eater but a snacker. When the kids were little and I made a special breakfast on a weekend (my usual effort was cold cereal), my husband was rarely interested in the food as he'd made his protein drink hours before.

What he did enjoy, though, was 'stealing' a piece of bacon off one of the kids plates. Of course, he loved bacon, but it was their squeals of 'DAD!' that gave him the most pleasure as I disliked him teasing them. (I didn't understand men at the time and that this ancient ritual represents affection to them.)

The kids could have had more bacon, of course, but it had become a game. Let's face it, it is nearly impossible to nab bacon with a fork.:)

Anyway, back to the 5-second rule. It appears that since the advent of antibiotics, many in our society have learned not to fear germs, bacteria and microbes.

We were having dinner with a young mother and her one-year-old a few years ago in a restaurant and the baby was learning how to use silverware. She dropped the spoon several times, and although I offered to go into the bathroom and wash it, the mother recounted the 5-second rule and said it was 'fine', as she wiped it off with a napkin and handed it back to the kid.

Amazingly, the kid is still alive and seemingly thriving, but I think that mom was lucky. It seems that science, in the form of a real experiment to test the 5-second theory, has answered the question. The study was done by a high school intern, Jillian Clark, at the University of Illinois. A salmonella 'soup' was made and applied to three surfaces: nylon carpet, tile and wood. Granted, they used lots of bacteria to mimic what would be found in contaminated food, and when foods were dropped for the requisite five seconds, they did pick up some bacteria.

How much is some? Here are the results:

She did an experiment by contaminating ceramic tiles with E. coli, placing gummy bears and cookies on the tiles for the statutory five seconds, and then analyzing the foods. They had become contaminated with bacteria.

For performing this first test of the five-second rule, Ms. Clarke was recognized by the Annals of Improbable Research with the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in public health.

It’s not surprising that food dropped onto bacteria would collect some bacteria. But how many? Does it collect more as the seconds tick by? Enough to make you sick?

Prof. Paul L. Dawson and his colleagues at Clemson have now put some numbers on floor-to-food contamination.

Their bacterium of choice was salmonella; the test surfaces were tile, wood flooring and nylon carpet; and the test foods were slices of bread and bologna.

First the researchers measured how long bacteria could survive on the surfaces. They applied salmonella broth in doses of several million bacteria per square centimeter, a number typical of badly contaminated food.

I had thought that most bacteria were sensitive to drying out, but after 24 hours of exposure to the air, thousands of bacteria per square centimeter had survived on the tile and wood, and tens of thousands on the carpet. Hundreds of salmonella were still alive after 28 days.

Professor Dawson and colleagues then placed test food slices onto salmonella-painted surfaces for varying lengths of time, and counted how many live bacteria were transferred to the food.

On surfaces that had been contaminated eight hours earlier, slices of bologna and bread left for five seconds took up from 150 to 8,000 bacteria. Left for a full minute, slices collected about 10 times more than that from the tile and carpet, though a lower number from the wood.

What do these numbers tell us about the five-second rule? Quick retrieval does mean fewer bacteria, but it’s no guarantee of safety. True, Jillian Clarke found that the number of bacteria on the floor at the University of Illinois was so low it couldn’t be measured, and the Clemson researchers resorted to extremely high contamination levels for their tests. But even if a floor — or a countertop, or wrapper — carried only a thousandth the number of bacteria applied by the researchers, the piece of food would be likely to pick up several bacteria.

The infectious dose, the smallest number of bacteria that can actually cause illness, is as few as 10 for some salmonellas, fewer than 100 for the deadly strain of E. coli.


So, my darling son? As the author of this article suggested, take that same five seconds to comtemplate your risk and whether that taquito is really worth it.

Here's the link to the full story in the NY Times just in case you don't want to take my word for it. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09curi.html?_r=1&8dpc&oref=slogin

Clark County Diva



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