The 5-Second-Rule Doesn’t Actually Exist When You Drop Your Food


Have you ever dropped a chip on the floor and someone yells, “5-second rule!”, and you quickly go to eat it before the 5 seconds is up? Well, we’re here crush your dreams, because the 5-second rule does not exist and it actually doesn’t even count because, according to Paul Dawson, Ph.D. and Brian Sheldon, Ph.D., as soon as food touches a contaminated surface, bacteria is transferred immediately.

Scientists tested this rule by contaminating three different surfaces, tile, carpet, and wood, with salmonella, and dropping some food on each surface. It was followed by measuring how much bacteria was picked up within 5, 30, and 60 seconds.


5 second rule
Greg Williams WikiWorld

We found that bacteria transferred to the bologna after only five seconds of contact time, thereby demonstrating that they may not be safe to eat,” scientists confirm.

They also confirmed that the longer the food sits on the surface, the more bacteria are transferred to the food. This may be why some people justify the 5-second rule, but the study completely disproves the old wives’ tale of a “rule.”


5 second rule
Christin Lola / Fotolia

The experiment also found that salmonella hung out on the tile surface for a whole month, proving that some bacteria can survive for long periods of time. Meaning if you find a chip on the floor, you probably don’t want to eat that.

Other research cases have debunked the 5-second rule as well. In 2016, a study confirmed this by using a wide range of foods instead of just one; watermelon cubes, plain bread, buttered bread, and gummy bears. The watermelon sucked up the most bacteria due to moisture.

5 second rule
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

It’s not totally clear where the 5-second rule theory originated from, but evidence points to a few experiences that could have helped make it become a global phenomenon. Beliefs of eating food off the floor date back to the “Khan Rule”, held by Mongolian leader Genghis Khan.

Khan apparently allowed this practice because he deemed any food, no matter how long it had been on the floor, good enough for anyone to consume. This is apparent because even if food is contaminated with bacteria, it has no visual representation of that, so it appeared to be edible.

5 second rule

Another rumor that went around was when culinary icon Julia Child appeared to have dropped a turkey on the ground, pick it up, and continue cooking it and said no one would know the difference. It was confirmed that it was actually dropped on the stovetop, many people still speculate due to their firm beliefs that they saw her drop the turkey on the ground.

Maybe Julia Child is a believer of the 5-second rule!



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