New 5-second-rule study overlooks earlier work on dropped food (especially toast)

A new study about whether it’s safe to eat dropped food — specifically watermelon, gummy bears, and buttered toast — neglects to mention the two Ig Nobel Prizes that figure into its doings. The new study is:

schaffner-new1Longer Contact Times Increase Cross-Contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from Surfaces to Food — Is the five-second rule real?,” by Robyn C. Miranda and Donald W. Schaffner [pictured here], Applied and Environmental Microbiology, epub 2016.

The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for Biology was awarded to Jillian Clark (who at the time was a high school student) for investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it’s safe to eat food that’s been dropped on the floor. Clark found that, with a clean floor, the amount of bacteria transferred from floor to food depends on how sticky or wet that food is.

The 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy’s Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.

The new study mentions neither of these. Either egregiously or — alternatively, just confusingly — the paper does not specify whether its own buttered toast landed on the buttered side. The authors, based at Rutgers University, say they did separately test butterless bread, but do not say whether their buttered bread was buttered on one side or two.

(Thanks to Neil Judell for bringing the new study to our attention.)

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