Okay, men, women, boys and girls and students, pay attention. This information could decide whether you'll be able to date that lovely lady (or guy) you met at Wal-Mart last week, be sick as heck lying in bed or fail every health test known. Here's the question.
Is it OK to eat food that has been dropped on the floor, so long as it's picked up within five seconds? Duh! Of course the short answer is NO! The food should be tossed in the "round basket."
Some bright young students at an Illinois high school were conducting studies about the spread of E.coli bacteria on tiled floors. They placed pieces of fudge-striped cookies and Gummy Bears on the tiles. In every case, the E. coli bacteria microorganisms were transferred from the tile to the food in five seconds. These studies earned the students what is called a kids "Nobel" prize for their efforts, but most of their friends stopped asking them to butter their toast.
A television crew from the show MythBusters on the Discovery Channel heard about the study and did their own test. They found just as much bacteria after two seconds as on food left for five seconds. Pretty scary.
If you do opt to consume that Krispy Kreme or Tastykake you fumbled to the floor on the way to your mouth, don't fool yourself into thinking you can quickly sanitize the thing by brushing it off or blowing away the germs. Germs are tenacious and hard to kill, (remember my June 24 article in the Miner) which is why every human being should take at least 15 seconds to wash hands well, and know that it takes 155 degree heat in a dishwasher to sanitize a drinking glass.
One good thing. Our bodies are designed to protect us when common sense does not - within reason. Saliva and stomach acid fight infection, and the natural responses of a healthy immune system will protect most of us against a minor germ incursion screw-up.
Actually, more people get sick from undercooked meat - or ingest more germs by biting their fingernails - than from a dash of floor spice. Next time you stick your dirty finger in your mouth to bite off that hangnail, and you start to feel ill, you'll know why. Who knows where that finger has been. Yuck!
The King of Germs at New York University, Dr. Philip Tierno, estimates that 50 percent to 80 percent of all food-borne illnesses are contacted in the home. He says the kitchen is the dirtiest room even in the cleanest house. Who knows how many germs attached themselves to that last bag of groceries that had been sitting in a cart or the trunk of your car or what may have been tracked in on the soles of your shoes or the family cat or dog.
If you drop a hard piece of candy or pretzel on a clean floor and eat it anyway, we don't expect you'll fall deathly ill. But here's a thought. Next time you eat out at a fast-food place or one of those other places that use young people servers, check to see if they are putting on those throw-away protection gloves. Maybe that girl or guy just wiped their nose with their hand or sneezed, or worse yet, worked the cash register handling all that money while you waited in line. Watch employees closely, and when it becomes your turn for service, that same person may be the one making your tuna sandwich on whole wheat, and never washed their hands or put on protective gloves.
I have made it a personal vendetta, that if line servers are not wearing protection gloves, I'm out the door. Sometimes I will even ask the manager why he or she permits this egregious act of health mismanagement. Most times they look at me with raised eyebrows and a snicker and tell me to take my business elsewhere. Actually, I believe most customers don't really care. I do.
So, do me a favor. Next time you visit one of "those" places that ignore health rules and general courtesy, stand back for several minutes and watch the people working behind the counter. A wake up call? Oh, yeah. Big time.