Redditors Are Torn Over A Simple Restaurant Rule

Most of us have heard of the five-second rule when it comes to food. You drop a piece of steak and pick it up within five seconds, so it's still safe to eat, right? A high school senior who interned at the University of Illinois in the school of food science and nutrition carried out a study on this topic. She was supervised by a doctoral candidate and swiped floors around the university with a cotton swab (via WebMD). Surprisingly, they found fewer bacteria than they expected. Meredith Agle, the supervising doctoral candidate, believes this is because most pathogens need warm, moist areas to thrive, and the university's floors were dry so not many microorganisms found the environment easy to thrive in.

Carpets and damp floors were not analyzed in the study, which also found that germs could transfer between a floor and a cookie within five seconds. Hence, the key takeaway from the study is "that floors are generally clean but if there are microorganisms present, they will transfer in less than five seconds," Agle says, per WebMD.

What about the five-second rule when it comes to non-food items, such as plastic flatware and cup lids? This question was asked on Reddit by a Dunkin' employee.

Should you throw away disposable items that have fallen on the floor or wash and reuse them?

One Dunkin' employee posed a question on r/DunkinDonuts, "If it hits the floor it's trash.. right?" They explained in a comment that they just started working at Dunkin' three weeks ago and a box of lids was tipped over by another employee. This led to OP being told to wash the soiled lids because throwing them out would be too expensive. OP was hesitant about this but said that luckily their shift had ended, so they did not have to wash the lids.

Fellow Redditors sided with OP, saying that disposable items should be thrown away if they fall on the floor. "Plastic stuff like that gets thrown out but if you drop a dish like a stir spoon or tray[,] we wash it because it's a dish that can get washed," one user commented. Another user wrote, "Pretty sure it's a health code violation to use disposable//single-serve items from off the floor because of [c]ross-contamination."

Another user pointed out that the foodservice industry has different guidelines to follow. "...[I]f a cup hit the floor at my house I'd have no issue picking it up and drinking out of it. But in a restaurant setting, you absolutely can't do that. We are held to a higher standard," they wrote. It seems the only ones torn on this rule are restaurant operators that don't want to take a loss on the wasted product.