If you have kids, you are probably familiar with the 5-second-rule. It’s a rule that claims that if you drop food on the floor, but pick it up within 5 seconds, it’s still safe and clean to eat. My 10 year old son lives by the 5-second-rule. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t eat much since he drops food all the time. Whether it’s potato chips, candy, a sandwich, popcorn, it doesn’t matter, if it hits the floor, he immediately picks it up while counting to 5, and then eats it.
How safe is it to do that? Personally, I would never do that. I’m a self-proclaimed germophobe who can’t even shake someone’s hand without reaching for the hand sanitizer. I decided to research this alleged rule and find out if there is any legitimacy to it. I read some very interesting articles on the topic, and as it turns out, the amount of bacteria that gets on our food when it hits the floor depends on more than just how many seconds it’s there before we pick it up. Sure, food that is only there for 5 seconds will have less bacteria than food that is there for a whole minute; however, it also matters what kind of food is dropped, and where exactly it is dropped.
For example, if you drop something that is wet (like a slice of watermelon), whatever is on the floor will transfer to it immediately. You can test this by sprinkling some sugar on the floor and then dropping a piece of cut apple on it. You’ll see that the apple will get sugar crystals on it immediately. 5 seconds is irrelevant. Also, as it turns out, our kitchens are a haven for thriving, growing bacteria. Dropping food anywhere else, even outside, will most likely be cleaner. This even applies if the kitchen floor looks spotlessly clean. Hmm… looking back, I remember when camping as a child I would occassionally drop a roasted marshmallow on the ground near the campfire, and I would pick it up and eat it.
However, this brings me to another point. We eat out in restaurants full of bacteria all the time. We store our foods in places that sometimes contain bacteria. Germs are around us everyday all day. Does the bacteria that gets on a piece of food when it hits the floor even matter since it’s such a small percentage of the germs we are exposed to daily? It turns out that is the real million dollar question. It depends on what kind of bacteria is on the floor where the food drops, and that is something difficult to determine between the time you pick it up and the time we decide if we’ll eat it. Some bacteria will make us sick, and some won’t. Could it be that the 5-second-rule was created by people who just don’t want to waste food? Who knows. You can check out the source articles below for more detailed information. All I know is that I don’t drop food often, and when I do, it becomes my dog’s domain. He’ll take care of it in less than 5 seconds.