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If you drop food, you can still eat it if you manage to pick it up within three seconds, or five, if you’re real hungry. At least, that is the folksy wisdom we have come to love ridiculing. Since we have contracted that other disease, the one that causes responsibility for our health to fall upon the wise and profitable shoulders of the health care industry, things must surely have changed? Consider the many, many cleaning products out there that promises to kill all known germs, and considering how well they have been selling for so long, surely we can consider it safe to eat off the floor by now? It would surely save money on those expensive dishwasher detergents that kills 99,9 percent of all known germs. Maybe we should douse the entire planet in the best-selling brand of germicidal hand-rub, then we can eat whatever we want off any surface we like. Or we can forget all those murderous promises and use a bit of common sense? Let us examine that three-second rule from up close, the Old People survived without special soaps and wet paper towels in sterile bottles.

When you drop food onto the ground, it is called waste. Nobody likes to eat waste, but it is universally considered bad manners to waste. If you drop food, pick it up immediately, that is a basic requirement for being allowed in decent conversation, together with washing hands and chewing with your mouth closed. The question is, though, when and if I can pick it up and eat it? Because this is a fun thing to philosophy on, Greenpets spent the time putting together some simple science for the purpose of justifying our own lackadaisical approach to the question. To begin with, we are concerned with germs infecting our food and making us sick, right? But what are germs?

A germ is a tiny core of life, from there, germinate. A germ is a tiny living thing, even though that life might not be immediately obvious; you can see a seed’s aliveness only once it sprouts. Germs, in other words, are not necessarily bad, there are good germs in every healthy person’s blood, your entire existence depends on tiny germs inside every living cell, only there we call them ‘mitochondria’. There are indeed many kinds and shapes and sizes of germ, but for our purposes here today, let us divide them according to their diet: Sugar, fat and protein. The ones who eat sugar are often useful, but often leads to bloating and suchlike. A germ that eats fat, can cause you much inconvenience, but for the ones that eat flesh, we at Greenpets have much fear for. This is a very simplistic breakdown, has little value to people who get paid to extract value from such as this, but it does help us to make our decisions regarding floor-food. So let us start our risk profile for recycled refreshment:

The moment you drop something, and you manage to follow it all the way until it stops rolling, bend down, and pick it up, should be around three seconds. If you take longer than that, it probably is because you have lost sight of it, and this is very dangerous. When you eventually find that morsel, was it the one you dropped? Maybe someone else dropped one last week, too, and now you want to put it in your mouth? Is it really a cherry-flavoured bon-bon, or is there some blood in the cat’s stool? Is it a raisin, is it a cockroach corpse? A fresh cockroach, disgustingly, is actually good nutrition, but like everything else, a dead one is probably contaminated by the time you pick it up. By the time you pick it up, there certainly is a time factor here, it is all about time, but not necessarily three seconds.

Germs are live creatures, who have to eat before they can breed. If you eat one germ, it will dissolve in your guts, or at worst enter the extremely hostile environment of you immune system alone and with little chance of living long enough to breed enough to cause you harm. Even a strong germ will meet that porcelain heaven within a day or two. The problem comes if you ingest vast swarms of breeding bacteria, immediately stressing your endocrine system and outrunning your immune system with antigens. This is why you must pop that cookie into your mouth immediately. Do not put it back on the plate, the bacteria now have sugar, and starch, and fat, and even a little protein. By the time you stuff that in your gullet, that little speck of dust containing two different germs, is now a seething mass of millions of hungry little beasties, waiting to catch the big wave over your lips, from the inside out. You should have eaten it when it was just a speck of dust… If you are going to get upset about eating a speck of dust, I must remind you, it is dust, you are breathing a multitude of fungal spores (highly poisonous) bacteria and viruses right now. That’s why you must breathe through your nose; the worst of it gets trapped in your snot, which you dispose of neatly at least once a day, preferably as you wash your face in the morning. Your snot is your first defence against airborne poisons, you should look after your sinusses, start by avoiding spray pesticides, so-called “air fresheners” and people who wear lots of perfume. Your food will also taste your food better…

That is the Greenpets philosophy on fallen foods. Surely this is only valid for hard, dry, easily-rubbed-clean-on-my-jean stuff. For soggy, liquid and meaty spills, the procedure is simple: train your dog to mop up the worst, by the time you get there with the mop and rag bucket, it should be an easy job. Also, clean fresh running water cures many an ill, especially if used as a preventative measure, called decent hygiene around yourself. I would eat a cookie off the average kitchen floor, not the average alleyway paving. Common sense is science, too.