Can This Make You Sick?

Wellness Wednesday: Fitness, lifestyle, and general health tips and news. Because we want you to be the best you.

By: Shirley De Leon

Some of us don’t mind savoring a cookie that just fell on the floor, as long as we pick it up within five seconds. But ever wonder how contaminated these foods are after their brief encounter with these surfaces? It’s not just acting on the five-second rule that may pose harm to our health. Does double dipping and eating cake batter also make us more prone to spreading germs and getting sick? Scientists have studied each practice, and concluded what we know but downplay: Bacteria does transfer from germy surfaces, like our mouths and the ground, to foods that come in contact with them.

Double dipping

A study that tested double dipping in three separate experiments found that a significant amount of oral bacteria did transfer from a bitten cracker to three different dips: salsa, chocolate sauce and cheese. Initially, the salsa had higher levels than the chocolate and cheese upon contact with the bitten cracker, but after sitting at room temperature for two hours, the bacterial levels dropped below that of the other two sauces. This finding suggests the type of dip also affects the level of bacteria in the dip.

The five-second rule

Three experiments were set up to see whether Salmonella, a group of bacteria that cause diarrheal illness in humans following ingestion of uncooked meats, raw eggs and infected produce, could survive and spread from wood, tile or carpet to bologna and bread. The results showed that over 99 percent of bacterial cells transferred from the tile to the bologna after five seconds of exposure to the tile. About 5 percent to 68 percent of bacterial cells made their way from the wood to the bologna, while less than 0.5 percent transferred from the carpet to the piece of meat. Bottom line: Salmonella could survive for up to four weeks on dry surfaces and spread to foods tested immediately after exposure to these surfaces.

Sampling uncooked, prepared dessert mix

We know eating raw meats raises our risk of contracting a foodborne illness. The same applies to ingesting cake batter, raw homemade cookie dough, homemade egg-based sauces and any other foods containing raw eggs in them. Avoid consuming these foods as they may cause Salmonella infections. Likewise, when faced with the choices of scooping dip with a half-bitten chip and devouring a cookie straight off the floor, simply don’t do it.  



    Photo courtesy of