The Fight Against Floor Food

If a piece of food has been on the floor for as long as it’s takes you to read this sentence, you should probably throw it out. In fact, if it touches the floor at all, it’s best to toss it.

Those are the findings from Windsor Central Middle School 8th graders Amara Keefer and Kayla McKercher. The pair undertook the sometimes-queasy task of studying the famed “5-second rule”.

“It’s not harmful. It won’t kill you if you eat it,” said Keefer. “If you really want to take the risk of eating bacteria, go ahead.”

Keefer, who has four brothers, and McKercher, who has two, were inspired by their siblings.

“Food gets dropped on the floor all the time,” said Keefer.

The pair looked at three pieces each of ham, cheese and onion that hadn’t touched the floor under a microscope. There was no bacteria on any of the food.

Then the pair dropped them on floors in three areas at school: the classroom, hallway and bathroom. And what was it like handling food off the bathroom floor?

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get out of here,’” said Keefer.

The results?
Amara Keefer and Kayla McKercher stand with their science presentation board 

“We zipped the food in plastic bags and in days a lot of bacteria and mold grew on all of the food,” said Keefer.

“There is bacteria but it takes about 17 days for it to be harmful to the human body. Personally, though, I wouldn’t eat anything that fell on the floor,” said McKercher. “It’s gross seeing how bacteria can grow on it.”

So the pair has made their verdict – the five-second rule is a myth.

“Five seconds is too long. As soon as it hits the floor, there’s bacteria all over it,” said Keefer. 

Keefer and McKercher will present their findings at the Southern Tier Scholastic Science Fair at SUNY Broome on March 17th. They’ll also do the same at a biomedical conference at Binghamton University on March 24th.

“I want to go to SUNY Broome and BU (for college). I want to be a forensic anthropologist,” said Keefer. “We’re hoping people can use this information. We want people to know the five-second rule is a myth.”

“I’m really excited. It’s going to be fun to be able to show my findings with everyone else so they’re more aware of what they’re eating,’ said McKercher.

The pair’s data are persuasive but one challenge remains in the fight against floor food. They must convince the medical professionals they’ll see over the next couple of weeks more than they have the siblings at home who inspired the experiment.

“They still (eat) it anyway,” said McKercher. 

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