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WorkbookEdition 6 the five second rule

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Passage and Questions

Name________________
Date________________

• Reading Comprehension Assessment
Directions: Read the passage. Then answer the questions below.

The Five-Second Rule
You have been looking forward to eating that last chocolate chip
cookie all day. There it is on the plate, looking sweet and chewy and
delicious. You get it from the plate. You bring it to your mouth. And then …
just as you are about to take a bite … you drop it on the floor! You remember
the five-second rule and pick it up right away. According to the five-second
rule, if you drop food on the floor, it is still safe to eat as long as you pick it
up within five seconds. Although many people who have dropped their
cookies would love for this to be a scientific fact, sadly, it is just a myth.
Scientists from Clemson University in South Carolina tested the fivesecond rule in 2007. First, they covered three different floor surfaces with
Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella, which is often found on raw chicken, is a

major cause of food poisoning. After coating the floors in Salmonella, they
dropped bologna sandwiches on these contaminated surfaces. Finally, they
measured the amount of bacteria on the food.
The scientists discovered that food that had been on the floor for just five seconds could have up
to 8,000 bacteria on it. Food that was left for one minute had ten times that amount—up to 80,000
bacteria. Because you can get food poisoning from as few as ten Salmonella bacteria, even a small
amount of Salmonella can be dangerous. This means that the five-second rule is simply not true.
In addition to amount of time food has spent on the floor, the location of the floor itself also plays
an important part in how many bacteria may be transferred to your food. Surprisingly, many outdoor
locations are actually cleaner than some places inside your house. According to Dr. Harley Rotbart, a
professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the sidewalk is likely to be cleaner than your
kitchen floor. Rotbart argues that the germs from raw meats that are probably in your kitchen are far more
dangerous than the bacteria typically found on pavement. Unsurprisingly enough, the bathroom floor is
also likely to have more dangerous bacteria on it than the sidewalk.
The type of food you have dropped can also affect the number of bacteria on the food. Foods that
are high in salt or sugar but low in water content—like cookies or crackers—grow fewer bacteria on them
after they have come into contact with the floor. Food with a higher water content, such as cooked pasta
or sliced fruit, pick up a larger quantity of bacteria.
So what does this mean for your dropped chocolate chip cookie? If you dropped it outside on the
sidewalk, the five-second rule might keep you safe. However, if you dipped it in milk first and then
dropped it in your kitchen or bathroom, you should probably follow a zero-second rule instead. No matter
how delicious that cookie is, it is not worth a trip to the hospital!

1) As used in paragraph 2, what is the best antonym for contaminated?
A.
B.
C.
D.

weak
cold
beautiful
clean


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Questions

2) According to the passage, how many Salmonella bacteria can it take to get you sick?


A.
B.
C.
D.

10
100
8000
80,000

3) Which of these facts would fit best in paragraph 4?
A. There are as many as 25,000 germs on every square inch of a cell phone.
B. The dirtiest spot on your kitchen floor is right in front of the sink; this area can contain over 800
bacteria per square inch.
C. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72
hours after coming into contact with the bacteria.
D. Sticky foods like iced pastries or gummy candies collect far more bacteria than foods with smooth
surfaces, like unpeeled fruits or hard candies.
4) Based on the information in the passage, which food would likely contain the highest level of
dangerous bacteria?
A.
B.
C.
D.

a piping hot pretzel that fell on the kitchen floor
a cookie that fell on the sidewalk
a piece of banana that fell on the kitchen floor
a potato chip that fell on the sidewalk

5) According to the passage, the amount of bacteria on dropped food depends on
I. where the food has been dropped
II. what kind of food has been dropped
III. how long the food has been on the floor
A.
B.
C.
D.

I and II only
II and III only
II and III only
I, II, and III

6) Do you ever personally observe the “five-second rule”? Why or why not? How will your practices
change, if at all, after reading this passage?
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Questions

7) The article mentions that “scientists from Clemson University in South Carolina tested the five-second
rule in 2007.” What kind of science do you think they were studying? Why do you think they chose to
test this myth?
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8) If you had mopped your kitchen floor within the past three hours before dropping a cookie on it, do
you believe it would be safe to eat the cookie? What if you had instead dropped an orange wedge?
Explain your hypothesis using details from the passage.
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Answers and Explanations

1) D
Question Type: Vocabulary
contaminated (adjective): polluted; tainted; soiled; made unclean or impure due to contact with something toxic, dirty, or polluted.
In paragraph 2, the author writes: “After coating the floors in Salmonella, they dropped bologna sandwiches on these contaminated
surfaces.” We can use context clues—hints from known words or phrases around the unknown word or phrase—to help us figure
out what the word contaminated most nearly means. In paragraph 2, the author explains how scientists from Clemson University
tested the five-second rule. The author writes: “First, they covered three different floor surfaces with Salmonella bacteria.
Salmonella, which is often found on raw chicken, is a major cause of food poisoning.” During the experiment, scientists spread
Salmonella bacteria—something that can make you sick—on different floor surfaces. The author then says that the scientists
measured the bacteria levels of sandwiches that were dropped “on these contaminated surfaces.” The surfaces are contaminated
because they are covered with Salmonella bacteria. Since Salmonella bacteria can make you sick, they make the surfaces they
cover dirty, tainted, or unclean. Because the question asks for an antonym, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means
clean or pure. Therefore (D) is correct. Based on the above information, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means clean
or pure. Weak does not mean clean or pure. Therefore (A) is incorrect. Based on the above information, we can tell that we are
looking for a word that means clean or pure. Cold does not mean clean or pure. Therefore (B) is incorrect. Based on the above
information, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means clean or pure. Beautiful does not mean clean or pure. Therefore
(C) is incorrect.
2) A
Question Type: Detail
To answer this detail question correctly, we need to find where the author talks about numbers of Salmonella bacteria. A good way
to do this is to scan the first few sentences of each paragraph, since these sentences will likely tell us what information can be found
in the rest of that paragraph. The first few sentences of paragraph 3 state: “The scientists discovered that found that food that had
been on the floor for just five seconds could have up to 8,000 bacteria on it. Food that was left for one minute had ten times that
amount—up to 80,000 bacteria.” This lets us know that the detail we are looking for is in paragraph 3. Later in the paragraph, the
author says: “because you can get food poisoning from as few as ten Salmonella bacteria, even a small amount of Salmonella can
be dangerous.” According to this paragraph, ten Salmonella bacteria can get you sick. Therefore (A) is correct. The passage does
not provide information to support choices (B), (C), or (D). Therefore they are incorrect.
3) B
Question Type: Inference
A good strategy for answering this inference question is to read the first sentence (also called the topic sentence) of paragraph 4.
This will give you a good idea of what the entire paragraph is about. The first sentence of paragraph 4 reads: “In addition to amount
of time food has spent on the floor, the location of the floor itself also plays an important part in how many bacteria may be
transferred to your food.” Based on this sentence, we can tell that paragraph 4 is about how the location of the floor affects the
amount of bacteria on dropped food. In the paragraph, the author goes on to explain that the kitchen floor is likely to be covered in
“germs from raw meats.” A sentence about the dirtiest spot on your kitchen floor would fit into this paragraph very well, since it is
also about bacteria on the kitchen floor. Therefore (B) is correct. Information about how many bacteria are on your cell phone does
not relate to the ideas in paragraph 4, which is about how the location of the floor affects the amount of bacteria on dropped food.
Therefore (A) is incorrect. Information about Salmonella poisoning does not relate to the ideas in paragraph 4, which is about how
the location of the floor affects the amount of bacteria on dropped food. Therefore (C) is incorrect. Information about the type of food
you drop does not relate to the ideas in paragraph 4, which is about how the location of the floor affects the amount of bacteria on
dropped food. Information about the type of food you drop would fit best in paragraph 5, which explains how the type of food affects
the amount of bacteria it picks up. Therefore (D) is incorrect.
4) C
Question Type: Inference
In paragraphs 4 and 5, the author explains that the kind of food you have dropped and where you have dropped it will affect the
amount of bacteria on the food. In paragraph 4, the author says that “the sidewalk is likely to be cleaner than your kitchen floor”
because “germs from raw meats that are probably in your kitchen are far more dangerous than the bacteria typically found on
pavement.” In paragraph 5, the author adds that “foods that are high in salt or sugar but low in water content—like cookies or
crackers—grow fewer bacteria on them after they have come into contact with the floor. Food with a higher water content, such as
cooked pasta or sliced fruit, pick up a larger quantity of bacteria.” Based on this information, we can see that a piece of banana
(which is a sliced fruit) that has fallen on the kitchen floor (which has more dangerous bacteria than the sidewalk) would likely
contain the highest level of dangerous bacteria. Therefore (C) is correct. A pretzel is a food that is high in salt content but low in
water content. In paragraph 5, the author states that “foods that are high in salt or sugar but low in water content … grow fewer
bacteria on them after they have come into contact with the floor.” On the other hand, “food with a higher water content, such as
cooked pasta or sliced fruit, pick up a larger quantity of bacteria.” Even though the kitchen floor is likely to have more bacteria than
the sidewalk, a pretzel is less likely to pick up dangerous bacteria than a slice of banana. Additionally, although the pretzel is piping
hot, the passage does not mention anything about the relationship between temperature and bacteria collection. (In fact, a piping
hot pretzel would be less likely to contain bacteria because any bacteria would die under such hot conditions). Therefore (A) is
incorrect. A cookie is a food that is high in sugar content but low in water content. In paragraph 5, the author states that “foods that
are high in salt or sugar but low in water content … grow fewer bacteria on them after they have come into contact with the floor.”
On the other hand, “food with a higher water content, such as cooked pasta or sliced fruit, pick up a larger quantity of bacteria.”
Furthermore, as the author states in paragraph 4, the sidewalk is less likely to have dangerous bacteria than the kitchen floor.
Therefore, a cookie dropped on the sidewalk is less likely to pick up dangerous bacteria than a slice of banana dropped in the
kitchen. Therefore (B) is incorrect. A potato chip is a food that is high in salt content but low in water content. In paragraph 5, the
author states that “foods that are high in salt or sugar but low in water content … grow fewer bacteria on them after they have come
into contact with the floor.” On the other hand, “food with a higher water content, such as cooked pasta or sliced fruit, pick up a
larger quantity of bacteria.” Furthermore, as the author states in paragraph 4, the sidewalk is less likely to have dangerous bacteria


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Answers and Explanations

than the kitchen floor. Therefore, a potato chip dropped on the sidewalk is less likely to pick up dangerous bacteria than a slice of
banana dropped in the kitchen. Therefore (D) is incorrect.
5) D
Question Type: Global
In paragraph 4, the author writes: “In addition to amount of time food has spent on the floor, the location of the floor itself also plays
an important part in how many bacteria may be transferred to your food.” The author goes on to explain that some floors—like
bathrooms and kitchens—are dirtier than others. Therefore, where the food has been dropped can affect the amount of bacteria on
the food. This supports option (I). In paragraph 5, the author states that “the type of food you have dropped can also affect the
number of bacteria on the food.” According to the author, foods that are high in moisture content and low in salt or sugar gather the
most bacteria. This supports option (II). Paragraph 3 discusses the amount of time food has been on the floor. The author says
“food that had been on the floor for just five seconds could have up to 8,000 bacteria on it,” while “food that was left for one minute
had ten times that amount—up to 80,000 bacteria.” Therefore, the longer food has been on the floor, the more bacteria there is likely
to be on it. This supports option (III). Therefore (D) is correct.



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