The Five-Second Rule Is a Lie, but You Can Still Eat Food off the Floor

We’ve all used the 5 second rule – when food (or maybe silverware) falls on the floor, but you declare that if it’s retrieved within 5 seconds, it’s safe to eat (with). I have, sadly, worked in restaurants where this rule also applied. On commercial kitchen floors. Yeah.


Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

There was a comedian who did a bit about this: how ridiculous it is to think that germs are all gathered around your mishandled item holding themselves back for the requisite 5 seconds. Come on, we obviously all know that – it’s total bullshit.

Well, after a recent study published by Rutgers University, science now agrees.

The scientists tested 4 different kinds of food – watermelon, bread and butter, bread, and gummy candy on several different surfaces, including tile, steel, wood, and carpet. They also used 4 varying times of contact: less than 1 second, 5 seconds, 30 seconds, and 300 seconds.

Basically, the results should surprise nobody.

Clip Art Kid

Photo Credit: Clip Art Kid

Bacteria doesn’t wait a certain amount of time to contaminate your food once it comes into contact with it. That said, there are some variables that seem to make a difference – the type of food (the wetter it is, the higher the chance it will be contaminated) and the type of surface (bacteria transferred less quickly from the carpet than any of the hard surfaces.

Donald Schaffner, the professor who conducted the study, did have this to say about the amount of time your food spends on the floor, though:

The longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.

So, while the 5 second rule isn’t going to save you from eating bacteria, it will save you from eating as much bacteria as someone who employs the 30 second rule.

But let’s face it. Even as dirt-eating kids, we all suspected the truth: a few germs never hurt anyone.