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Sorry, parents — the three-second rule is a myth

Certain parenting rules are necessary for the health and safety of our children. And some are necessary for the sanity of us parents.

More: Parents reveal fears over bacteria-ridden bottle tops

Such as the three-second rule. You might not admit to it, but most of us have relied on this rule now and again. If it’s a choice between letting your toddler eat the last slice of birthday cake off the floor and enduring a full-scale tantrum, well, there really is no choice at all.

But now an expert has gone and spoiled it all for us by issuing a warning about this “rule”. Basically it’s never a good idea to let your kids eat food that’s been on the floor (even if it’s been there for three seconds or less).

According to Metro, Dr Lisa Ackerley, a visiting professor of environmental health from the University of Salford, said that bacteria stick to foods instantly, meaning if food touches a dirty floor, it should be discarded immediately in case it has picked up harmful bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.

A trial carried out by Dr Ronald Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London, backs up Dr Ackerley’s warning.

More: Harmful bacteria may be hiding inside your favourite cookies

Dr Cutler’s trial involved dropping pieces of pizza, apple and buttered toast onto different surfaces, which were all artificially contaminated with E. coli. Some samples were dropped then picked up immediately, some were picked up after five seconds, and some were picked up after 10 seconds. When the food samples were analysed, all were covered in germs compared to the control samples that hadn’t been dropped, and each test sample was heavily contaminated, regardless of how long it had remained on the floor.

“If you drop food on a floor, it’s better to put it in the bin rather than your mouth”, said Dr Cutler. “No matter if it’s at home on the carpet, the kitchen floor or in the street, my advice is, if you drop it, chuck it”.

A survey sponsored by steam cleaner maker Karcher found that a third of us would eat food that had been dropped on the floor in the kitchen — and even the living room.

Food safety expert Dr Ackerley said, “Regular small bursts of hygienic cleaning is more important than one big spring clean. Bacteria and viruses can’t be seen or smelt and are easily destroyed through high temperatures, meaning steam cleaning is perfect”.

Do you abide by the three-second rule? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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