Monday, March 11, 2013


Is it not very uncommon for many people to pick up a dropped piece of food from the floor and blow it to remove any adhering matter before eating the same? Can this be condoned in to day's world where every one is aware of the potential pathogens can cause if infected foods are ingested? For convenience it was assumed by many that if such a dropped food piece is picked up within 5 seconds of dropping it, it is safe for consumption! Can this be correct? No way if one cares for likely contamination the dropped food is exposed to and the consequences of a stomach upset. Whether the foods can pick up bacteria within a short time of 5 seconds from the floor is not a relevant question because there is bound to be some bacteria on the floor and even if a minuscule portion sticks to the food, that will be sufficient to cause some damage if there are pathogens among them. There are many factors like moisture content of the food, stickiness of the food, shape of the piece dropped, relative cleanliness of the floor, surface roughness of the floor, composition of the food, pressure used to pick up the food etc and no one can predict that the food so picked up within 5 seconds after dropping will be free from bacteria. Here is a commentary on this issue which provides fascinating reading.   

"There is nothing funny about food-borne illnesses. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and chills. Symptoms typically appear suddenly and last a short time. But it's enough time to make you miserable. Most healthy people don't need medical treatment for food poisoning. But dehydration can result due to fluids lost during your sickness. And certain people need to be especially cautious. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections. There are two silly but common reactions when we drop food. First, you may look around to see if anyone noticed. "Maybe people think if no one saw it then it didn't really happen -- like if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Dobbins says. Another reaction is to blow on the dropped food, as if that will clean it off. "Not only is it silly, it actually adds 'fuel to the fire,'" Dobbins says."Your mouth contains lots of germs and bacteria, and blowing on something usually means we're kind of spitting on it, too." "That means we're adding more germs into the mix," she says. "Pediatricians tell us not to 'clean' off our babies' pacifiers with our own mouths for this very reason." "Yes, that technically means when someone blows out the birthday candles we're getting some germs there, too. Sorry to spoil the party!" Dr. Jorge Parada, director of the infection prevention and control program at the Loyola University Health System, suggests we adopt a new rule of thumb. "Instead of applying the five-second rule to a dropped food item," he says, "people should employ 'when in doubt, throw it out' as the golden rule."

Generally if the product dropped is firm and can be washed under running water, it can be used after such a washing process, If the food is a floury one, it is difficult to pick it up even within a minute, let alone in 5 seconds. Liquid foods can never be fit for consumption if it is recovered from the floor while pasty foods present still tougher logistical problem. In these days when every one is talking about food waste, it is true that no efforts must be spared to reduce such wastage as much as possible. May be those with high immunity to almost all bugs that thrive in tropical environments may be least affected by picking up dropped foods and eating them but many consumers with "weak" belly might be better off by avoiding such risks!. As the critics above aver, just throw the dropped food if there is a doubt about its safety, no matter how costly the dropped food is.


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