Age-old question revisited

March 31, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

The weighty issue of the day did not start out having anything whatsoever to do with lowering the lid. No. It's this: Should you eat food that has been dropped on the floor?

Can you tell I'm off to a slow start today? It's been raining for, oh, too long. Most Minnesotans adapt to our weather. So today I am mostly cloudy with intermittent showers and blustery winds. And I don't feel one bit like writing about topical matters. Think sensory overload. Too. Much. Disturbing. Stuff. Hence the topic du jour. Several weeks ago, I noticed a piece in the Chicago Tribune that I've been saving for . . . a rainy day. Bingo! Read on if you dare!

Old wives have been saying since time out of mind that if you drop food on the floor and rescue it in (choose one: three or five) seconds, it's a no harm-no foul deal. People are evenly divided about this, at least in Chicago. But it's not simple. Turns out there are variables to be considered.

WARNING: If you weren't paranoid about germs before, you will be when you finish reading:

The average office desk, for example, harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba. And teachers' work spaces have more bacteria than most other professions, followed by surfaces used by accountants and bankers, Gerba says.

It's probably better to pick up a morsel off a dirty street than a hospital floor that hasn't been decontaminated. [snip]

Gerba has found that office candy bowls are often high in bacteria and sometimes even contain fecal bacteria. Yuck!

No kidding, yuck! Memo to self: No. More. Peppermints. From. Host. Stand. In. Restaurants.

There are pages of comments that follow the ChiTrib's online version of this piece. Some of them simply beg to be shared with the discerning readers who frequent the Clothesline:

' My first rule is consistency; would not pick up smooshy food, cottage cheese, jam or jelly, mashed potatoes.
' With mashed potatoes, I will only eat the top layer off the floor.
' I eat about half my lunches at my desk, so should I start eating off the toilet seat now?
' Dare I ask why you're eating in the men's room?
' Multitasking.
' I think you've found the golden bullet for killing off Halloween office candy bowl obsessions. Just affix a sign to the bowl that says, "May contain fecal bacteria."
' In my house, if you don't pick dropped food up in 2.5 seconds, you lose it to the fastest dog in the West.
' Drop it and it's garbage!
' Does that toilet seat thing apply to the bus depot?
' I'm so tired of the desk vs. toilet seat info . . . I'll put a sandwich on my desk and another on a toilet seat, then let you decide which one to eat.
' Two words, people: George Costanza.
' If you eat hot dogs or sausage or even ground beef, I have no idea why you'd have a problem eating something that's fallen on the floor.
' How silly is this thread?

Pretty silly. But a nice little diversion from this week's plateful of "I don't remember," eh? BTW, it's still raining.

Posted in


Barb (not verified) | March 31, 2007 - 4:15pm

interesting reading on a wet, soggy 'nother day in Minnesota.

Love your picture, made me think of my son's service dog's favorite place to find tootsie rolls-------in the cat's litter box, where the lid is never down............oh, supposin' they aren't really tootsie rolls either!! And they never do hit the floor.

Sunny days, please come, so Barbara can hang her laundry outside again!!


Barb (not verified) | April 1, 2007 - 10:04am

not to dwell on this subject, but were you aware of the fact that women's purses are considered to be the link to spreading of so many pathogens?
We set our purses on the floor, take them into the bathrooms, set them on the seat or floor of the car, then set them on the kitchen counter.
And that's no joke on this wet and soggy April Fool's Day.


Barbara replies (not verified) | April 1, 2007 - 12:27pm

Okey dokey. Well. Here's an idea. Given that most public rest rooms (and, for that matter, private ones) don't have functional hooks, we could start carrying those little suction cup doohickeys around with us. In our purses. I'm tellin' ya, germ warfare is a local issue. The comments I didn't print were about the disgusting things that happen to food in grocery stores, delis, restaurants. Some things we're better off not knowing!


perhansa (not verified) | April 1, 2007 - 2:40pm

I don't know too many relevant germ stats but I know the kitchen dish cloth is one of the best breeding grounds for time you wipe the counter think about it.

Your ruminations on germs reminded me (don't know why) of the old Zen story of the Master and his apprentice who are walking through the woods when they come across a beautiful young woman in a white gown, poised before large muddy patch in the road, and wondering how she'll get across. The old master picks up the young woman and carries her to the dry side, sets her down, and then proceeds on his way, appprentice in tow. After a couple hours silence the apprentice speaks, saying: "Master, you know we have taken a vow not to have physical contact with the opposite sex, yet you didn't hesitate to pick up that attractive woman and carry her across the mud." Whereupon, the Master replies: "Yes, that's true. But I set her down two hours ago, why are you still carrying her?"

Oh, the things we carry....