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Alton Brown Weighs in on the 5-Second Rule

'It's a respect thing,' Brown says
Alton Brown on the 5-Second Rule
Photo: Sarah De Heer

When it comes to the five-second rule—that saving grace for those of us who are clumsy, which allows us to pick up food that's fallen on the floor for just a few seconds and eat it—there's virtually no consensus. Anthony Hilton, a professor who focuses on germ research at Aston University has said that "science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor." Meanwhile, Donald W. Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University, says, "Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously."

Food-science nerd Alton Brown has his own take on the rule, "Hey, if your floor’s clean and your food’s hot, heck, why not," he tells Tasting Table. "In my apartment, I definitely do it, but probably not if I have to scoop it up. But if it's butter toast, I'm going to blow it off and eat the damn thing." But, he says, he would never serve it to a guest. "I think it's not necessarily a scientific thing, but a respect thing."

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As of yesterday, Brown is back on the air with a fresh show, Iron Chef Gauntlet, and he will guest star on Bill Nye's new show, which debuts this Friday for Earth Day. So, hopefully, he'll debunk a few other food myths soon.

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