Primary Care Education

The "5 Second Rule"

July 25, 2018

How many times have you seen someone drop food on the floor, blurted out “5 second rule” and eat it? If you call out the rule, then apparently it is ok to eat it if you pick it up in 5 seconds or less. Well…believe it or not, many scientists have tested this “so-called” rule and I am sorry to report that it's not true.

Bacteria can attach itself to your food even if you pick it up super-fast. It might even contain enough bacteria to make you a little or very sick, which is why you should not eat food that has been dropped on the floor. Here's what you need to know about the "5-second rule":

1. It looks all shiny and clean - A clean-looking floor isn't always clean.

Even dry floors that look clean can contain bacteria. Why? Some germs can survive on the floor for a very long time. Unless you have a powerful microscope, you can't check to see how many germs are on those shiny floors. Even if they were just cleaned, bacteria is airborne so the instant you clean it, bacteria is already starting to attach itself.

2. You can be superhero fast, and that may not be fast enough.

Bacteria will attach to your food as soon as it hits the floor. That means food left on the floor for an instant can get contaminated if conditions are right. Foods with wet surfaces, like an apple slice, can pick up bacteria much more easily.

3. When in doubt, toss it out.

There is some bacteria that is not harmful, however others can give you awful stuff, like diarrhea. You can't see bacteria, and even if you could, it doesn't take much to make you sick.

Q: So, what do you do with that yummy piece of whatever that you just dropped?

A: The safest choice is to throw it out or give it to your brother. Just kidding!

Return to News