Scientists Slam 5-Second Rule

Girl eating a peachHow many times have you been eating something delicious, only to drop it on the floor ... "Five-second rule!" you shout and pick it up and eat it without a second thought?

It's a great rule ... or was.

A recent study says the five-second rule is actually bogus and could be harmful to your health.

That's right, scientists say just because food hasn't been on the floor very long doesn't make it safe since bacteria and salmonella can live for up to a month.

"In the case of the five-second rule we found that bacteria was transferred from tabletops and floors to the food within five seconds; that is the five-second rule is not an accurate guide when it comes to eating food that has fallen on the floor," said Paul Dawson, a food scientist at Clemson University.


Yikes! I don't even think twice about picking up fallen food from the floor and giving it back to my children or popping it into my own mouth. And with a toddler, I would be embarrassed to tell you how often I see her pick up a crumb of food that I have no idea how long has been there.

Other scientists say it's not so much an issue of how long the food has been on the floor, but rather where it lands.

Dr. Harley Rotbart, a professor of microbiology and pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune that a bagel dropped outside on the sidewalk is likely safer to eat than one dropped in a kitchen or bathroom.

"The kitchen floor, however, is probably a zero-second zone because the bacteria from uncooked meat and chicken juices are more hazardous than the ‘soil' bacteria outside," Rotbart said.

Eating in the bathroom should also be avoided, not only for obvious reasons (like it's gross), but because "it's a great potential source of bacteria and shorter-lived viruses that can cause gastrointestinal illness if ingested," he said.

Perhaps we'll have to dine al fresco more often.

Do you follow the five-second rule? Will this study change that?

Image via Bruce Tuten/Flickr

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