How Real is the Five Second Rule?

Estimated read time: <3 minutes

If you drop a skittle on the floor, the germs on the floor won’t pause for five seconds — the minute you drop anything on the floor, that very second your food becomes gross. Sorry to burst your bubble but the ‘five second rule’ isn’t real!

For those of you living under a rock and don’t know what the five second rule is, it’s basically a theory that if you drop some food on the floor it’ll still be fine to eat, as long as you pick it up again within five seconds.

After hours of scrolling through Google, I came to the conclusion that ‘five seconds’ on the floor isn’t the threshold which decides if the food is edible or not. It rather depends on how much bacteria can make it from floor to food in just few seconds and how dirty the floor is.

You must be wondering what the origin of this rule is. How did it all start?

A well-known, but inaccurate, story about Julia Child may have contributed to this food myth. Some viewers of her cooking show, The French Chef, insist they saw Child drop lamb (or a chicken or a turkey, depending on the version of the tale) on the floor and pick it up, with the advice that if they were alone in the kitchen, their guests would never know.

Despite the fact that the ‘five second rule’ has been one of the most popular food myths, unfortunately, research shows that food will instantly pick up bacteria from any surface it lands on.

A study published in the Journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, tested different foods fallen on various surfaces and showed that no fallen food completely escaped contamination. The research also showed that even though how long the food was on the floor did matter but the composition of the food and the type of floor surface matters even more. For instance, carpeted floors transmit less bacteria than stainless steel or tile floors. And with types of foods wet foods like watermelon have the highest rate of contamination, while drier foods like a piece of chocolate pick up fewer bacteria.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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