A Five Second Lesson about the Five Second Rule

For 40-something years, I have been under the impression that if you dropped food on the floor and you picked it up really fast, you could still safely eat it. In most circles, this is known as “The Five Second Rule” (and for the more fastidious, “The Three Second Rule”). This applied to anything that could easily be shaken or blown off such as a cookie or a pacifier. It does not apply to something sticky like a lollipop or a PB & J sandwich, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, in a recent news report, scientists REFUTED the Five Second Rule.

In the Journal of Applied Microbiology, which is something I routinely read for fun, a study was published that showed that salmonella and other bacteria can live up to four weeks on dry surfaces and immediately transfer to foods.
This flies in the face of an earlier study which showed that it took almost five minutes for Skittles candies to collect bacteria when they were dropped on the floor.

I’m not sure if this says more about the bacteria on the floor… or the Skittles.

Of course, not all floors are created equal. It seems that if you are going to drop your food on the floor and then eat it, you are better off dropping it on the sidewalk, outside, than on the kitchen floor in your house. While most of us like to think that we are world class housekeepers, the truth of the matter is, our kitchen floors are about the dirtiest, most disgusting, bacteria-laden places in the universe. But if you’d even seen my kitchen floor, you probably already knew that.

So what does this mean for mankind?

1. We need to do a better job cleaning our Kitchen’s.

2. People who blow off their baby’s binkies when they fall on the sidewalk and pop it back in the kids mouth, are probably ok.

3. We would probably all be a lot healthier if we ate more Skittles.

©2012, Beckerman. All rights reserved.
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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A Five Second Lesson about the Five Second Rule

  1. With my first child we freaked out about germs (he was a preemie and I was a Microbiologist) but time passed and we had our second child. Things got busy and well I still loathe public bathrooms and restaurant floors, I don’t worry about germs as much – we have an immune system for a reason – is my go to lazy logic. 🙂

    • After having worked as a waitress in my 20’s, it is a freakin’ miracle that I can eat out at a restaurant and not dry heave thinking about all the things I saw go down in the kitchen. And I’m with you on the public restrooms, too. But in my house, the dog drinks out of the toilet and then we let him lick our face. go figure.

  2. My go-to source for all things genius, Mythbusters, did a similar experiment (no doubt equally scientific as that of the Journal of Applied Microbiology!) and I believe their conclusion was that the food’s ok for 45 seconds! Maybe they used skittles instead of poutlry!

    • I LOVE Mythbusters (especially when they do things like accidentally launch a cannonball through someone’s home!). However, I’m not sure I would eat something that sat on the floor for 45 seconds. Even if it survived the bacteria, I don’t think it would survive the dog!

  3. That could explain all the gastrointestinal problems my family experiences. We routinely employ the 5-10 second rule in our house.

  4. all this means is that the editors at the Journal of Microbiology have no kids. Let them procreate and issue an addendum down the road!