Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta recently, according to this story, shocked some germ freaks by invoking the legendary three-second rule during a game. After accidentally spitting out his chewing gum, Matta scooped it off the floor and popped it back into his mouth, explaining that it hadn't been on the ground long enough to be contaminated.
The story asks, just how germy was that sticky gum, and was Matta better off because he picked up his gum in three seconds rather than five?
Researchers who have actually looked into the three- to five-second rule say, nope, sorry. Despite the heroic attempt to minimize waste, time is not a factor when food is exposed to bacteria, according to both common sense and Jillian Clarke of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, who tested the theory several years ago for a college internship.
Actually, the critical thing is what you're using to pick up the food and where you've dropped it.
The average office desk, for example, harbours 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba, a.k.a. Dr. Germ. And teachers' workspaces have more bacteria than those in most other professions, followed by surfaces used by accountants and bankers, Gerba said.
In the home, the kitchen harbors more germs than any other room in the house, according to the Journal of Applied Microbiology. The greatest germ concentrations lurk in kitchen sponges and dishcloths, but sink drains, faucet handles and doorknobs are next highest on the list.