Do You Follow The 5-Second Rule?

We’ve all dropped that freshly buttered piece of golden brown toast on the floor, yes? And many of us have contemplated whether or not to just pick it up and eat it. That’s why there’s the 5-Second Rule, the completely unscientific belief that food left on the floor for less than five seconds is sufficiently ick-free. But scientists at Clemson are trying to call BS on one of western society’s core beliefs.

Says Paul Dawson, a food scientist at the food science and human nutrition department at Clemson University, where he and his team of students tested the Rule:

In the case of the five-second-rule we found that bacteria was transferred from tabletops and floors to the food within five seconds, that is the five second rule is not an accurate guide when it comes to eating food that has fallen on the floor.

But can science change your mind on this?

That’s why we’re conducting this incredibly unscientific poll:


Sadly, the ‘five-second rule’ is not really safe [Houston Chronicle]

Comments

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  1. aloria says:

    Never gotten sick from eating dropped food. I consider it target practice for my immune system.

    • craptastico says:

      exactly. i call it “testing my system”. also i saw a report from Univeristy of Pittsburgh that said most foods didn’t pick up measureable bacteria even after a few minutes. i’ve since adjusted by 2 sec rule to a minute and a half. no need to rush picking it up off the ground anymore.

    • wojonet says:

      LOL, nice. I totally agree. I have never gotten sick from eating dropped food either. And that includes eating things off my high school cafeteria floor from back in the day.

    • chefboyardee says:

      i’m with you. my family has iron stomachs from a lifetime of eating food that was left on the counter overnight, fell on the floor, was unrefrigerated, what have you. i’ll take half-eaten food from friends, a lollipop my best friend’s kid got tired of, a sandwich my dog licked – nothing like that gets me sick anymore.

      i read a really interesting book that i can’t remember the name of, that basically says if a system is in perfect balance, and always in perfect balance, and only knows that, the slightest deviation can totally destroy it. but, if over time, you teach it to accept small deviations, it’s a much stronger system that can withstand all kinds of outliers. that’s how i think of my body (within reason, of course).

      • Bativac says:

        Is this like when all the deadly diseases in Mr. Burns’s body were all in perfect balance, thus keeping him alive?…

      • Conformist138 says:

        I went with the great George Carlin’s idea: tempered in raw sewage. with food, I smell it, look at it, do a taste test, whatever. If it passes that, it’s fine to dig in.

        Unless the floor is sticky/dirty or the object I dropped is wet/sticky, I’ll bush it off and eat it. Even then, in my own house, that’s not a hard rule. I might salvage something messy that’s fallen since I’m poor and really can’t afford to waste food. Luckily, I rarely drop much of anything.

    • Noah says:

      The only thing I won’t eat off the floor is piece of banana. When dropped, it seems to collect every loose piece of hair in the house.

  2. ktetch says:

    Wow, only a few years after mythbusters busted it on TV…
    http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2005/10/mythbusters_chinese_invasion_a.html

    • ktetch says:
    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Yeah, they found that it has a lot to do with the moisture content of whatever you drop. So a piece of roast beef might pick up something nasty, but a potato chip would probably be fine. I can’t believe this is an article considering the Mythbuster’s thing was like two or three years ago, wasn’t it?

    • coconutmellie says:

      Let’s not get started on the scientific value of data acquired by the Mythbusters. I do like them both very much, but c’mon guys – it’s called a “control.”

      • amhorach says:

        http://xkcd.com/397/

        If you don’t read XKCD, that one is a classic. I agree that they’re applying an informal version of the scientific method, but they have to manage to be both entertaining as well as informative.

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        Why would you need to establish a control on something like this? All you are doing is measuring how tainted something is that fell on the floor.

    • trey says:

      i hope you dont rely on mythbusters for accurate data. those guys are idiots.

      • ktetch says:

        Well, I know Grant, and to a lesser extent Jamie and Adam, and some of the production team. We all did BattleBots together about 10 years ago – Adam, Jamie and Grant were competitors, I was on the tech+safety team, and its the same production crew. It’s also ‘funny’ just how similar the pilot episode was to what we got upto in the desert when filming season2 of Battlebots in Vegas (except we used smaller-scale things)

        It’s a TV show, a lot of the ‘boring stuff’ is edited out, to fit more of the ‘important stuff’ in. I wouldn’t mind getting back in TV, but I have other stuff to do as well.

  3. Vanilla5 says:

    And there’s all kindsa bacteria in tap water. Been drinking tap water and using the 5-second rule (unless it’s a filthy floor) all my life. Still kickin so far.

    I’ve even had friends see a piece of freshly baked pound cake dropped on the ground in a parking lot. They just didn’t eat the part the touched the concrete. They said it was moist and delicious and were glad they didn’t waste it.

    • heybebeh88 says:

      Tap water is more treated and more regulated (at least in the US) than bottled water. So you’re doing the right thing.

      • freelunch says:

        not always true… if you talk to the water quality workers in some of the smaller towns, you will likely develop a sudden urge to install a filter in your sink.

        • ktetch says:

          Here’s an idea then, file a complaint. They’re under STRICT quality regulations that they’re required to follow.

    • chefboyardee says:

      bacteria isn’t necessarily bad anyway. in fact, your body is more “bacteria” than it is “cell”.

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5527426

    • ssnseawolf says:

      Tap water is, on average, far better than bottled water. Your local muni has strict regulations as to the quality of drinking water, something bottled water manufacturer’s aren’t bound by.

  4. caradrake says:

    Once the food touches the floor, it’s done. Straight into the garbage it goes. I don’t want to risk getting sick over an M&M or some other cheap piece of food – or even just wasting the time it’d take to check for dirt/hair/etc on the consumable. My husband believes in the 5 second rule, though.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The kitchen floor, heck no. The carpet? Generally not because of the fuzz, but the table is fair game.

    • jsl4980 says:

      For me it depends more on whose floor I drop something on. I know what is clean and what is dirty in my house, but in a restaurant or someone else’s house I have no clue how clean it is so I ditch most foods that hit the floor.

      • ellemdee says:

        I don’t even like touching my keys if I drop them on the floor in a restaurant, let alone eat something that dropped on the floor in a public place.

    • xredgambit says:

      M&M have their own coating. Just crack that bastard open and eat the chocolate inside.

    • Rachacha says:

      I think it depends on where it was dropped. In a mall or a restaurant – in the trash. If it was in my home and I just cleaned the floor, I would probably eat it.

    • Enduro says:

      You know vegetables grow in dirt and animals live in their filth? Processing plants are too scary to comprehend. Just rinse it off, you’ll live.

  5. dolemite says:

    Really depends on the last time the floor was cleaned. If like a day or 2 ago, yeah. If 2 weeks ago, hell no. Also, how dry the item was. If it is moist item, no.

  6. You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

    I grew up on a dairy farm, so I always say “I’m sure I’ve had worse things in my mouth than are on the floor” and eat the food anyway… unless the food was sticky and it got a lot of hair on it…

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      “I grew up on a dairy farm, so I always say “I’m sure I’ve had worse things in my mouth than are on the floor”

      Interesting…

      • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

        I guess mostly getting hit in the face by a *dirty* cow tail when you happen to have your mouth open… gross…
        I’m glad I got out of that line of work!

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          LOL That sounds like something that would happen to Mike Rowe. He’s always getting a hunk of crap down his throat!

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      Oh, and as my grandpa used to say: “A little dirt don’t hurt” :-)

    • xxmichaelxx says:

      Exactly. I’m a hiker/backpacker – I eat stuff covered in dirt. I drink muddy water with god-knows-what in it. I eat stuff well past its prime. When you’re hungry, dirt-covered hash taste like ice cream only better.

      What do all these whiners think people did before every house had a freezer, people grew and butchered their own food, and there was an FDA to nanny us to death (That is, for all of human history except the last relative nano-second)?

  7. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    While I voted No on this, the caveat are foods that can be rinsed off in the sink before consuming. If I drop a piece of sliced cucumber on the floor, it can be salvaged. The above example of buttered toast? In the trash bin it goes, along with a string of swearing while I attempt to wipe up the grease spot on the floor (Since the toast always lands butter-side down)

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    No, especially when it’s one of my Adderrall’s. I fear my kittehs on 20mg of amphetamines. I have been known to wash something to get the kitteh and puppeh hair off before cooking it.

    • SixOfOne says:

      Kitteh hair is mainly the reason why the food will go in the garbage unless it’s landed on the table, or is a piece of fruit or vegetable, skin intact and uncut. I have a long hair cat, and I’d rather not have her fur in my mouth.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Even IF I clean everything, my two long hair cats, one long hair dog, and one short hair who sheds more than I can believe fill the house enough that fur ends in food. The worst is when I wake up and have a piece of hair stuck in my eye.

  9. smo0 says:

    If it’s “wet” food… no… if it’s a piece of hard candy or something with less absoption… then – I’m good with the 5 second rules.

    If it’s a cookie… idc… what’s going on…. I NEVER THROW AWAY A COOKIE!

    “A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.”

    :D

  10. lawnmowerdeth says:

    With a German Shepherd in the house, there is no 5 second rule. Either he gets it, or it’s immediately covered in fur.

    • dreamfish says:

      … and if there’s one thing worse than having a sheep herder from Germany in the house, it’s having a dog.

    • Snaptastic says:

      Ditto. If a piece of food gets dropped on the floor, there is a corgi or american eskimo eating it within seconds…provided it wasn’t caught before impact.

      …I swear those dogs use telekinesis to move those food items out of my hands on onto the floor.

  11. NarcolepticGirl says:

    No, I don’t follow the 5 second rule. Unless it’s something like an orange that fell on the floor.
    Or a vegetable that I was washing anyway.

  12. Dallas_shopper says:

    If I drop food on my own floor I may pick it up and eat it, or rinse it off then eat it depending on what it is…and how long it’s been since I last scrubbed the floor.

    If I drop it on any other floor, it’s going in the trash.

  13. GMFish says:

    Five second rule?! If there’s no mold, it’s not old!

  14. Brent says:

    I’d rather eat floor dirt than EPA-approved pesticides.

  15. Sunflower1970 says:

    5 seconds? I thought it was 12 seconds…

  16. nbs2 says:

    Depends on the item. If it is sticky or otherwise traps floorstuffs, then it depend on how recently the floor was cleaned. If dry, then a quick brush off is good enough (usually).

    Per the example in the post:
    butter side up – brush it off
    butter side down – if there is visible dirt/hair, trash time; no visible dirt/hair, tummy time.

  17. dg says:

    Mythbusters tested this already…

    That said, when I was about 14 – working as a caddy, there was a BIG kid – we called him Horse. Horse got one of those nasty, in-the-plastic bag, microwaved hamburgers from the caddy master, in the caddy shack… He slathered the mustard and ketchup out of the plastic packets on to it, went to put the top bun back on, and DROPPED the burger… it fell right onto the ketchup/mustard side, on the floor of the nasty caddyshack…

    He picked it up, scraped off the ketchup/mustard, added some more, and ATE THE BURGER…

    Still grosses me out to this day…

    • Jeff_Number_3 says:

      That’s nasty due to the amount of condiments, but it does make sense. The ketchup/mustard makes a protective coating around the food, like slimy version of a plastic wrap….

      Or you can think of it as ablative burger armor! :-)

  18. Erich says:

    If I pick up the food and it’s not obviously fuzzy and/or dirty, then it’s edible.

    The only exception is if toast lands butter-side down (or anything along those lines), then I make a new one.

  19. swarrior216 says:

    If it drops on the floor, the table, my shirt or anywhere else besides the plate I throw it away.

  20. cloudedknife says:

    depending on the food and the surface the five second rule is well over 5 seconds. in fact its over 20! (according to mit and connecticut college researchers)
    http://improbable.com/2007/05/18/five-second-with-and-without-background/

    on the flip side, this debunking of the 5second rule has been around for the last 2 years at least
    http://www.neatorama.com/2008/05/23/trivia-the-five-seconds-rule/

  21. bigd738778 says:

    41 years old and have never ate anything that has fallen on the floor that I have dropped as for from a restaurant, who the hell knows? I find it really gross that anyone would eat food that has fallen on a floor that is covered in germs and bacteria. My parents tought me to not do it and I tought my son. I myself take a drug that surpresses my imune system so I have to be extra careful but even if I didn’t I still wouldn’t eat dropped food. I also was certified by the health departmart while working selling foodservice equipment, so I have seen the bacteria and germs and molds and fungus that can grow on foods so I would recommend anyone who eats from the floor should take the class and you will never do it again.

    • crashfrog says:

      Well, it was covered in bacteria before you dropped it, too.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I am on Plaquanil and have been for a good while. I eat food off the floor and have barely had as much as a sneeze in a year.

  22. diasdiem says:

    It’s only valid if it’s dry food on dry floor. Wet/sticky food on dry floor, or dry food on wet/sticky floor, no way. Wet food on wet floor is right out.

  23. Murph1908 says:

    “that is the five second rule is not an accurate guide when it comes to eating food that has fallen on the floor.”

    No shit. The Five Second Rule is a joke. Literally. As in ‘ha ha, five second rule!’ It’s like ‘white line at the intersection means the stop is optional.’ It wasn’t meant to be literal, but just something to say as you pick your food up off the floor and shrug off the social stigma of eating it.

    Anyway, my guidelines have to do with the exterior of the food and the material of the floor. Hard foods, like M&Ms, that can be wiped off are fine anywhere. Bread is never ok, due to it’s absorbant proerties. Carpet is a big deterrant. So grapes on the kitchen vinyl ok, grapes on carpet not ok.

    Oh, and never in front of my 2 year old son.

    • DrLumen says:

      Same here. As long as either surface isn’t wet and the food not porous it’s fine. Things like M&M’s… how many of us, as kids, have eaten stuff right out of our dirt laden, lint filled pockets? Wow, we survived.

      What about carrots or potatoes? If they hit the floor does anyone throw them away? ;)

  24. props_nyc says:

    its not really the germs that bothers me, its the dust/dirt/hair/fuzz…. particularly with moist/wet/sticky food items. buttered toast is a definite no no.

  25. infinitemonkeys says:

    I’m sorry, is five seconds of sex with a stranger not cheating? If you pull your parachute five seconds after jumping out of a plan, did you not skydive? If you need actual testing and science to prove what is painfully obvious, then watch frikkin Mythbusters. They tested and busted the five second rule. Or check wikipedia or Snopes or… the INTERNET.

    Why is this even a question?

  26. Murph1908 says:

    Bingo. You have to eat a peck of dirt a year to stay healthy, according to an old saying.

    If you don’t train your body to fight, it’ll always lose.

  27. Etoiles says:

    It depends on what the food is and how the floor is. I know when I last cleaned my kitchen floor and I know what’s been in there, so if it’s something “hard,” like a pretzel, I don’t mind eating it. If it’s something like a slice of meat or a slice of fruit (as opposed to a whole piece of fruit) or the peanut-butter side of a cracker, then no, into the trash it goes.

  28. devwar says:

    I care less about the germs and bacteria on the floor, and more the other, visible things that will affect the taste of my food. If I drop something and it gets hair/dirt/dust on it, eww. If I drop it and it looks fine, or I can brush off what got on it, om nom nom.

  29. nuke3ae says:

    I follow the 5 second rule and then change it to the 10 second rule if I am too slow.

  30. spartie says:

    i go by the 5 day rule. if i can’t remember when i last ate it, it goes in the trash

  31. ZeshawnWhiles says:

    A big reason for the growth of childhood allergies is due to being overly “clean”. If your food falls on the floor, then pick it up and eat it, it won’t kill you (unless it falls into a puddle of aids or something).

  32. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Really, can’t believe they pay people to do these studies…next they will be telling us Santa and Dilbert are not real…hey, that might make a great study…

  33. redskull says:

    Like many here, if something lands on my own floor I’m more inclined to eat it. If it’s a floor at work or other public place, I think about all the shoes that have traipsed through restrooms populated by men with poor aim, down sidewalks slick with spit and dog waste that have then walked past where I’m sitting, and I throw the food away.

  34. Addikt says:

    I don’t get why people are scared of food that has dropped on the floor. Does it look like it is going to change the taste? OK, don’t eat it.

    I use a wheelchair – my hands are going to have more crap on them than most spots on my floors.

    Sure, the bacteria is going to transfer. So? Honest, your body can handle it. If it can’t, you are a special case and already know about it.

    (No, I’m not going to make that decision for other people. If other people’s food gets dropped, it goes in the garbage).

  35. tungstencoil says:

    My only objection to “eat it anyway”:

    1. Is it visibly dirty from the floor (I own dogs, so this usually translates into “is there more hair than I care to pick off)?

    2. Has it been on the floor long enough to spoil?

  36. tungstencoil says:

    My only objection to “eat it anyway”:

    1. Is it visibly dirty from the floor (I own dogs, so this usually translates into “is there more hair than I care to pick off)?

    2. Has it been on the floor long enough to spoil?

  37. Thaddeus says:

    People walk in restrooms, both private and public. The shoes make there way all over other floors.

    Falls on the floor = trash. No exceptions.

  38. giax says:

    Finders keepers.
    If it’s something fancy, I better be fast though. My nearly blind cat loves nearly everything I do (including weird stuff for a cat like peanuts) and can hear and smell the noms in the other room so he’s around before I even open whatever noms I was having. If the cat finds it and noms it first, it’s his, if I find it first, then it’s mine.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      My blind cat can smell milk like five rooms away. Eating cereal is insane with her around!

  39. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    Considering my dog eats poop and has a compulsive floor licking problem, no, I don’t eat anything that touches the floor,

  40. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Reminds me of a story I heard on the radio the other day. It was about this Austrian doctor/scientist (Dr Friedrich Bischinger) found that you should let kids pick their nose and eat it as it helps with their immune system.

    Happy Picking…Enjoy!!

  41. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    A little dirt and grime does the body well. It makes us used to germs and such.

  42. tgrwillki says:

    The paper was written several years ago, and the PSA spot was posted to YouTube in November 2008. Looks like the death of newspapers is coming as a result of their lack of ability to generate new content, rather than as a result of the internet.

  43. dulcinea47 says:

    Is the food visibly dirty when I pick it up? (i.e. does it have cat hair stuck all over it?) Can it be washed off or the dirty part cut off? Common sense, people.

  44. Rhainor says:

    The immune system is like a muscle; it needs exercise. If you don’t give it small challenges every now and then, it atrophies, and then when you need it to be strong, you’re SOL.

  45. tekenen says:

    http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news2467.html

    is the first scientific study I am aware of. Beat MythBusters by a couple of years….of course, MythBusters wasn’t on air then either…

  46. pjstevens77 says:

    Apparently the Mythbuster’s episode on this wasn’t good enough….

  47. seishino says:

    I feel like the 5 second rule is a reflection that we’re currently overly paranoid about food and bacteria. I’ve had friends that wouldn’t sit down in the grass because the were paranoid that they would die… of something. Showing that 5 seconds on the floor doesn’t matter really should just open it up to the 30 second rule, or the I-know-how-long-it-has-been-there rule.

    As a culture, we really need to get a sense of perspective about bacteria. I assure you, licking the floor won’t make you sick. If you don’t wash all of the dirt off of your vegetables you won’t get lyme disease. Waking up with a mouth full of mud won’t make you any less healthy.

    Our bodies have been dealing with bacteria for millenia. Our ancestors didn’t have boots, or sidewalks, or Corningware. Don’t eat where you poop, wash your hands, bathe regularly, etc. Those are good rules. The idea that a hot dog bun dropped on a table you washed yesterday is going to give you cancer is ludicrous. You could drop a hot dog into a sand pit, wash it off in a creek ( A moving one. Water-borne parasites happen far more regularly than kitchen-floor borne ones), eat it, and be fine.

  48. Skipweasel says:

    I’d dispute “Western society” – I’ve not met anyone in the UK who has a clue what the 5 second rule is.

    I’d rather use common sense. Dry toast is a lot less likely to collect bugs than licking up that cup of coffee you just spilled.

  49. erratapage says:

    We should all eat more dirt.

  50. topgun says:

    Like scientists don’t have anything better to do like find a cure for cancer or a women’s version of Viagra?
    I say if you miss the 5 second rule, invoke the 10 second rule.
    I’ll bet most counter tops have as much bacteria as the floor.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      It’s always been the 10-second-rule in my neck of the woods. We must be a slow-moving people.

  51. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I didn’t think anyone actually thought the 5 second rule meant anything, it’s just a way of recovering lost food!

  52. HogwartsProfessor says:

    The Mythbusters did this and found that if the food was wet (i.e. a piece of salami), it seemed to collect more gunk and germs than a dry piece (a cracker). So if I butter a cracker and it falls on the floor, no, I won’t eat it. If I drop the cracker alone and my floor isn’t all that grotty, I’ll blow it off and eat it.

    I’m still alive! Although eating buttered crackers will probably kill me eventually anyway.

  53. Sarcastico says:

    Yes–if it was a Baby Ruth candy bar accidentally dropped into a crowded swimming pool, causing a mass exodus a la Jaws, and only after draining the pool, dressed in full hazmat attire and only if the water was chlorinated.

  54. Robofish says:

    5 second rule and all other food drop rules only apply to non sticky / non wet foods.

  55. crashfrog says:

    I follow the “wet/dry” rule. If it’s a dry product, I might brush it off if the floor was clean. If it’s a food with any degree of moisture, I toss it, no question.

    Dry toast, yes. Buttered toast, no.

  56. GuidedByLemons says:

    Unless it’s visibly dirty, the only reason I throw away dry food that fell on the floor is out of a sense of decorum if other people are around. “Five second rule!” is just an excuse to your buddies for eating that M&M you dropped.

    Bacteria are transfered quickly, but who cares? There are bacteria all over my skin all the time, and floating in the air, and on every non-floor surface I touch. Are there dangerous bacteria on the average floor, in numbers sufficient to make me sick? No! So I see no reason I should worry.

  57. maztec says:

    My floor? It boosts my immune system.
    Someone else’s floor? Eat at your own risk.

  58. Garbanzo says:

    I reject the entire premise of the article: if something has detectable levels of bacteria on it, it’s not “safe” to eat. I like the give my immune system some real work to do to distract it from attacking me.

    If a dropped food is dry I’ll eat it. If it’s wet and can be rinsed, I’ll rinse and eat it. If it’s wet and can’t be rinsed, I throw it out. Hell, I’ll even eat food that I drop in the (bag-lined) trash can, depending on what else is already in there. If it’s just fresh vegetable peelings and plastic packaging, we’re good to go!

  59. artk2002 says:

    I may eat dropped food, but not because of the so-called “5 second rule.” I may do it because my immune system is up to the task. Making everything sanitary and bacteria-free is hurting us, not helping us.

  60. Wei says:

    I’ll make this simple: Do you think bacteria could transfer to your tongue in 5 seconds if you licked the floor?

    Yes?

    Then it can get on food.

  61. el-brazo-onofre says:

    An Ig Nobel prize was awarded in 2004 for 5-second rule research.
    http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N41/41_ignobels.41n.html

  62. luftmenschPhil says:

    National Geographic Mag – May issue had a short feature on the 5-second rule (or 3 sec). They interviewed an epidemiologist about this and he debunked the rule – it’s really about 0 seconds.

  63. Retired Again says:

    This question was answered in great detail via testing on “MYTHBUSTERS.”
    ALL tests showed IMMEDIATE bacterial, etc., attachment.
    Can result in illnesses in the future, not just in next couple of days.
    Sure changed the way our family members think.

  64. El_Fez says:

    Depends on what I drop and what the condition of the floor is. A wet thing on my nasty ass floor? Stright in the garbage. Something dry on a reasonably reciently mopped floor. That’s safe.

  65. dgingras says:

    It’s not a BELIEF! It’s a JOKE! There is a DIFFERENCE! In my mind it has always been sarcastic, you joke the food is clean because of the short duration of contact with the floor. But if you eat it, you do so out of indifference to the dirt you know the food picked up.

  66. Gladeye says:

    You guys are gonna be screwed when the apocalypse comes. As a society, we’ve all become so delicate and pampered. Our ancestors ate food a lot less sanitary than we have now and had stronger immune systems. There are also many places in the world where people eat much less food that is much less sanitary than we do. If someone from Somalia saw you throw away a cracker that fell on the floor, they would think you were a moron. Will you ingest a few extra germs or microbes? Of course. But under most circumstances (ok, not restaurant floors), especially in your own home, the ethics of not wasting food outweigh the mostly imagined ick factor.

  67. Bob says:

    That 5 second rule might as well be the 30 minute rule where if someone doesn’t step on it after it falls then it might be eatable.

  68. jrwn says:

    My little girls follow the 5 day rule, or just eat it if it looks good

  69. GameHen says:

    The survey should differentiate between food dropped at different locations.

    If I drop it at home and it’s not something sticky, then sure, I’ll eat it. It’s all my germs anyways. If I drop it in the breakroom at work or in a public restaurant, no way. If I drop it on the floor of my cubicle/office at work, yeah I’ll eat it.

  70. larkknot says:

    Only if it is something I can wash off, like a piece of fruit, will I eat something that’s hit the floor.

  71. joncarwash says:

    There was also a previous study done at the University of Illinois in 2003, here’s a good rundown: http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news2467.html

  72. MrPenny says:

    I’m healthy as a horse. I throw all my food on the floor and eat it directly from the linoleum.

  73. Chinchillazilla says:

    My uncle dropped the Thanksgiving pie once. Landed with the top on the ground. We scraped off the top layer and ate it anyway. Like we were going to skip pie?

  74. xredgambit says:

    I do it, depending on the food. I mean really if it is a dry food and there is no dirt, sure I’ll go for it. If it is like pudding or something wet then nah it’ll be trash. If it is like a candy bar where just part of it got a little dirty I’ll break it off and eat the rest. I mean it is candy.

  75. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    It really depends on the food and the floor, but I’ve been known to eat the occasional dropped snack without any adverse effects.

  76. JoeOvercoat says:

    You’ve got it all wrong: it is x seconds before you have to *eat* it (x seconds determined by how long it takes for the pathogen mass to grow to a critical mass, assuming we are not looking at the case of accidently injesting a pile of arsenic left on the floor, like so much candy sprinkle, in which case time, again, would not matter…assuming we are not talking about soaking up a puddle of mercury). How long it remains on the floor is immaterial, right? The pathogen transfer rate would follow a declining exponential, wouldn’t it? Likewise the area of surface that the foodstuff is exposed to would be as least as great a determinant than total time spent on the surface, wouldn’t it? So did it bounce, slide, or did you pick it up with a swirl? And lastly, there does seem to be emerging evidence that avoiding all possible pathogens in any quantity is not ‘safe’ in the long-term, isn’t there? So isn’t both the premise and the rule of thumb, as applied, in doubt?

  77. erinpac says:

    The ground has lots of dirt… but look through some of those studies – they invariably find less germs/bacteria/spores on the floor than on counters, hands, doorknobs, TV remotes, etc. I don’t know that I’d encourage eating dropped food, but if you ever drink from a water fountain, ride in an airplane, eat off a picnic table, or even use many restaurant utensils, you’ve exposed yourself to far worse (and are still probably fine).

  78. kmw2 says:

    My food already has bacteria on it, and my floor’s usually pretty clean. What’s the problem?

  79. Carlee says:

    For me, the 5-second rule is not based on science – it’s based on how icky I think it would be to pick up food that fell on the floor and eat it. Meaning if a piece of food has been on the ground for an hour, that’s pretty gross. If it’s 10 seconds, then it’s not as icky.

    It depends a lot on the food (if it’s wet then it’s more likely to attract dirt/dust/hair), if you can wash it, and the floor. If it falls on concrete outside, I’m just tossing it. If it’s on my laminate (fake hardwood floors), then I will probably pick it up and eat it. Also, if it’s one french fry out of a tray, then I’m less likely to eat it. If it’s my sandwich, you can bet I’ll try to salvage it.

  80. samandiriel says:

    “we found that bacteria was transferred” is a little generic… what kinds of bacteria, and in what amounts? There are many harmless bacteria out there, and in small amounts many others will be harmless.

  81. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    If it isn’t something that would easily pick up bacteria, you pick up the item, hold it in your hand and say “Gad made dirt, dirt don’t hurt. Amen.”

  82. Unicorn-Chaser says:

    I follow the “How dirty is the surface and how hungry or poor am I right now?” rule.

  83. P_Smith says:

    The only foods that you can use the five second rule on are raw fruits and vegetables. They have a washable/removable skin and they’ve already been around dirt and bugs, so the floor wouldn’t make it any worse.

    Hell, if anything in the kitchen hits the floor, I won’t use it. Utensils get a rinse then washed, dishcloths go in the laundry, and a paper towel roll heads to the cleaning closet.

  84. backinpgh says:

    There’s bacteria floating around in the fucking air too. The thing these tests never point out is that the presence of bacteria does NOT equal the presence of HARMFUL bacteria. Drop something on the floor, it gets bacteria on it. That does not mean you are going to contract an awful disease and die. Like they say, God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. If I drop something on the floor and don’t eat it it’s because it got gunk/dirt/goo on it, not because I’m worried about “bacteria.”

  85. Alex C. says:

    This is too vague. I will use the rule on hard, dry, non-porous things. A just-dropped M&M is fine, particularly if I catch it on the first bounce. Using the 5 second rule on buttered bread that landed butter-side-down (which it always does) is like eating a used mop.

  86. mhutt says:

    One of my students did a science fair project on this. He found if the item is moist in anyway then forget it, but dry items didn’t pick up anything. Ex if your buttered toast lands butterside down, trash it. But if it is dry toast hitting dry ground, you should be fine.

  87. The Porkchop Express says:

    Should the type of food also be tested? I mean I would think a slice of ham would pick up more germs that a dry M&M.

  88. teamplur says:

    IIRC, I read that a student had done their thesis on the similar 10-second rule. He found that if there was anything on the floor to transfer to the food, it happend pretty much right away. No matter how quickly the item was picked up.

  89. Hands says:

    I’m making a road trip this fall to watch my University of Miami Hurricanes play at Clemson. Now I have two reasons to root for an asskicking.

  90. Jabberkaty says:

    Mmm… Bacteria. I knew it tasted better after I dusted it off.

  91. axiomatic says:

    Mythbusters covered this one pretty well on their show. No I will not ruin the episode by telling you their result. It’s a good one though.

  92. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I follow the 5 second rule, but never actually believed that the food wouldn’t get germs. I just don’t care if it gets germs. I am not a germ freak and appreciate that it builds my immune system. Nomnomnom.

  93. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I just have to say, my 7 year-old asked me the other day if the 5 second rule applied in parking lots. I raised her well.