The Five Second Rule: Fact or Fiction?

Are you going to eat that?

A note from Jill: Before anything else, I'd like to apologize for the late update! I know you've all been waiting for Saturday's post, so here it is!

According to urban legend, the Five-Second Rule is a well-known unwritten rule whereby food dropped on the floor for 5 seconds or less is still safe for consumption. Though widely believed in, many people follow this rule blindly, and the topic has not been well documented. In today's post, I will be discussing this famous myth, and reveal the truth behind what you think you know about it.

What you think you may know

Many people find the Five Second Rule is applicable for common practice because it is believed that enough bacteria to make you sick or kill you can only be transferred to dropped food in at least 6 seconds, thus making food left on the floor for 5 seconds or less safe to eat.

You actually have more than 5 seconds...

An experiment was conducted by Goettsche and Moin of Connecticut College in 2007 on the Five Second Rule. They found that there was little or no bacteria found on the foods that were on the floor for five, 10 or 30 seconds. The wetter foods picked up bacteria after one minute, while the drier foods were found to have bacteria on them after five minutes. This proves that you have more than 5 seconds to pick up food. To be more exact, you have 30 seconds to pick up wet foods, and about a minute to pick up dry foods before they become contaminated.

...Or do you?

After reading the previous paragraph, you may be thinking that the Five Second Rule works, but don't jump to conclusions yet. According to WebMD, there are at least ten kinds of bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, that can cause foodborne illnesses. Another interesting fact: these bacteria can also be transferred to your food in just a split second. 
An experiment was conducted by Prof. Paul L. Dawson and his colleagues at Clemson, their bacteria of choice being salmonella. They applied salmonella broth on a tile, wood, and on a carpet, and it was found that even after 24 days, thousands of salmonella per square centimeter were still thriving on the tile and wood, with tens of thousands still alive on the carpet. After 28 days, hundreds of salmonella were still alive. 

Also, did you know that for certain illnesses, you only need to consume a very small number of bacteria? Some strains of salmonella only need as few as 10, while a deadly strain of E. coli requires less than 100.

Not only that, nutritionists have stated that it's not just the bacteria on the floor you should be worrying about, but also the chemicals used to clean the floors that could also be potentially harmful for you. Moreover, recently-cleaned floors are still dirty from having contact with the bottoms of shoes.

These statements show the experiment conducted by Goettsche and Moin has defects, and that they didn't use a wide variety of environments to conduct their research.

The 'improved' rule


To avoid any unwanted consequences of eating food off the floor (or off any other surface that isn't your plate/bowl/plastic wrapper!), you should also take note of the following:
  1. Just because it looks clean, doesn't mean it is - Never forget that even a shiny, spotless floor can contain bacteria! 
  2. The floor is as sanitary as the object used to clean it - Makes sense, doesn't it? Just imagine eating food off the mop in the cafeteria if you want a clear picture. Also, even with a brand new cleaning device, there will always be those stubborn germs that just won't go after cleaning.
  3. You may not be fast enough - Remember salmonella and the lot whenever you think that the sandwich you dropped is still safe to eat. As mentioned earlier in the article, there are several dangerous germs that can get attached to your food in a split second. 
  4. Location, location - Think about where you've dropped your food! If you've dropped it in the toilet or in the market, you may want to forget about eating it and move on to something... cleaner.
In conclusion, the Five Second Rule does work, but only in some places. The sad thing about it is that you wouldn't know if the floor you've dropped your food on is relatively clean or not, so I highly recommend that if you don't want to take the risk, throw it away.

After all, you've always got good ol' Tiger to clean up the mess.


Shufei said...


(Honeslty, I've never heard of the 5-second rule until you brought it up here. x] Jakun betul.)

Post a Comment

HostGator promos