The 5 second rule

My favorite rule of all time has got to be the five second rule. As a lover of food, one of the worst things that can happen is dropping it on the floor. The five second rule is idea that your food will not be contaminated within 5 seconds of touching the ground. For something that is such a well known phenomenon, one would think that there should be science that backs this up. This “myth” was debunked by the Mythbusters 

The myth busters perform experiments in the short clip to determine how much bacteria is obtained on a piece of food in less than and more than five seconds. The myth busters had used a control “floor” by making trays have a uniform layer of bacteria because a real floor would be inconsistent. the also wanted to account for dry and wet foods, so they included crackers and lunch meat in their experiment as well as eliminating food as a constant altogether. Their finding eventually concluded that no matter if it is 2 seconds on the ground or 6 seconds on the ground, the bacteria count found is almost identical. It’s safe to say that maybe you shouldn’t eat food that has fallen on the ground. It’s much safer for your health to make another sandwich than to potentially contract salmonella from trust the “5 second rule”.

As an adult, I can’t imagine eating food that has fallen on the floor, unless it was in a wrapper.

What I find interesting is that people are not likely to eat food that has been dropped on the floor, but a lot more likely to eat it if it fell on the table. Would you eat a slice of apple that may have fallen into the kitchen sink at home? I probably would. This study published by Charles River Laboratories International Inc.  takes a look at different surfaces found in the kitchen and how much bacteria they contain.

Charles River International Inc.

The bar chart from this study will show you how contaminated a regular kitchen sink can get. I hope this may open your eyes to the idea that the 5 second rule is one that may be best to ignore.

4 thoughts on “The 5 second rule

  1. Brandon Ross Armitt

    This a definitely a topic that I really never thought about blogging and I’m glad that you decided to do so. I also lived my childhood thinking that has long as that 6th second did not come, I was going to be in the clear and I would safe from the bacteria. What surprised me the most from the research that you presented was the fact that if the food is on the floor for 2 seconds or 6 seconds, it has collected almost identical amount of bacteria. I would personally think after reading your blog that the more time that it spends on the floor, the more bacteria that can attach to it. Another thing that comes to my mind is how come as adults we have a different thought process as lets say young teenagers. If a middle aged person drops a piece of food on the floor, without a doubt thats going into the garbage. But if you see say a 14 year old drop food on the floor, they take the risk and sometimes go ahead and eat. Is there something in the brain that develops as you get older that makes you think differently?

    Attached is a link that talks about men and women regarding the 5 second rule:

  2. Mairead Donnard

    This post was definitely an eye opener. As a child, I religiously followed the five second rule. It is so easy to follow when the food your consuming tastes so good. I thoroughly believed that if I was able to pick up my food within those five seconds, I could be saved from any possible germs. As an adult, I reluctantly realize how unrealistic that rule is and that it should certainly not be followed. If you are a germaphobe, here is an interesting article about the five common ways in which germs spread:

  3. Abigail Roe

    I have always applied the five second rule to my life when dropping food. However, not all types of food. If I dropped food that is wet, I will not eat it at all. This is because I feel like hair and other gross particles get stuck to it easier. I wonder if this is the same for most people. Your post has a lot of interesting facts. I would have maybe expanded on if all the bacteria presented on the chart is bad. Not all bacteria is harmful…some is good for you. However, your post gave me new insight to the five second rule and made me reconsider it. Good job.

  4. Matthew Jacobs-Womer

    Great post! I 100% followed the 5 second rule as a kid, but it depended where the food fell. If I was at my house and dropped something on the kitchen floor, as long as it was a food that could be easily picked up, I would probably still eat it; it would not be the same story for a restaurant or most public areas. If there is bacteria on the surface, it will automatically immediately attach to the food, there is no process on it taking more than 5 seconds to crawl up and bond with the food. I don’t think that occasionally picking up something you just dropped and eating it is harmful, it is risky though. All in all there is probably no floor surface here at Penn State, or any college, I would be okay with dropping my food on.

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