Is the 5-Second Rule Right?

The 5-Second Rule

By C. CLAIBORNE RAY

Q. You know the five-second rule for dropped food? Is it really safe if you pick it up in time?

A. “The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule,” said Dr. Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.”

In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact, Dr. Gulick said. Factors that influence the risk and the rate of bacterial transfer include the type of floor; the type of food; the type of bacteria; and how long the bacteria have been on the floor.

In a study published in 2006 in The Journal of Applied MicrobiologyClemson University researchers tested salmonella placed on wood, tile or carpet, and dropped bologna on the surfaces for 5, 30 or 60 seconds. With both wood and tile, more than 99 percent of the bacteria were transferred nearly immediately, and there was no difference by the time of contact. Carpet transferred a smaller number of bacteria, again with no difference by contact time. The amount transferred decreased over hours, but there were still thousands of the bacteria per square centimeter on the surfaces after 24 hours, and hundreds survived on the surfaces for as long as four weeks. As few as 10 salmonella bacteria can cause gastroenteritis.


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71 responses to “Is the 5-Second Rule Right?

  1. This article is about how the 5 second rule should not exist.“The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule,” said Dr. Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious. Almost immediately as a food hits the floor bacteria clings onto the food. I personally agree wit Dr. Roy M. Gulick, because if bacteria jumps onto the floor almost immediately then I personally wouldn’t eat it.

  2. This article about is basically about how the 5 second rule is not as reliable as we all think. Personally I have never believed the 5 second rule. Once on Myth Busters they tested the 5 second rule, and found it false. I think that the idea on eating items off of the floor is just gross! If you think of all the bacteria on the floor would you want to put it in your mouth? I think not. Food off the floor is just disgusting, and the 5 second rule should be the 0 second rule!

  3. The 5 second rule is a false statement. Last year in health class, during our Nutrition unit, Mrs. Dugan showed us a video which had a piece of pound cake that had fallen on the floor. They tracked how many germs were caught onto the slice of cake and none came on until 2 minutes had past. When I was younger, I was never taught about the 5 second rule. It wasn’t until 2nd grade until I fully learned about the 5 second rule. Today I believe in it partially. It really depends on where I am. If I were to be at a field I would not use the rule, but in a home I would use it.

  4. This article is about how the five second rule is not true at all because the baacteria can come on the food almost immediately after the food hits the ground. I think we should definetly put this rule into effect after I read this article. This is not healthy and could get you very sick which could end up being terrible.

    • I agree with you partially. Considering what Mrs. Dugan showed us last year in health class. To me it depends on the destination of where I drop the food. For instance, outdoors would be a definite showing of when not to eat of the ground. Indoors is a little better.

    • I agree wit you RC its not healthy to eat food that has bacteria crawling all over it.

  5. This article is mainly about the five second rule and how it should be call the zero second rule. Almost on contact 99% of the germs are transmitted to the food, so why should you wait the extra five. I think that the five second rule should be forgotten and not passed from parents to child. If you are to continue it you should definitely wash what ever was on the floor because there are already thousands of germs per square centimeters. That is why I think the five second rule is bad.

  6. This article is about how the 5 second rule is false. I also do not believe in the five second rule. If i drop food on the floor, I throw it out or give it to my dog. I do not want to take the risk of getting sick just because of 5 seconds.

    • What do you mean by false? I also agree when you say that you should throw away the dirty floor. But I think that the dog could get sick too. I don’t what to get sick so, down with the five second rule.

  7. In my opinion, Dr. Gulick is correct when he says that there is no five second rule. This is simply because bacteria can be crawling on the food you drop within one second. This is why you should never eat food off the floor. Doing something small like this can get you very sick. However, the only time it would be okay to eat something off of the floor would be if the food was wrapped in something, and that is not the case with the five second rule. Therefore, it is not a smart idea to eat something off the floor.

  8. This article is mainly about how the 5 second rule isn’t completely true. It’s more like the zero second rule. Reading this article really surprised me. I couldn’t believe that so much bacteria could cling to food so quickly. I never actually used the 5 second rule because the fact that something had fallen on the floor was gross enough for me. I’m glad I never followed the 5 second rule and after reading this article, I probably never will. “In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact, Dr. Gulick said.”

    • I agree with what you said about food falling on the floor being gross! I am glad that I don’t follow the 5 second rule because of all of the bacteria!

  9. The main point of this article is to express the fact that the “5 second rule” is invalid. The article states how if a piece of food is on the ground for a second, or thirty seconds there will be no difference in how much bacteria gets on it. They even did a test that proved that the bacteria will cling to the food on contact. The test also showed that the same amount of bacteria would get on the food whether it was on the ground for a second or a minute. Nobody should ever eat something off the floor. I will admit, there were some times that I went by the “5 second rule” but after reading this article I know that I will never abide by that rule again.

    • I completely agree with you! I had no idea so much bacteria could cling to one piece of food so fast. I never really followed the 5 second rule, but after reading this article, I never will!

  10. This article is about the five second rule. Whether any food item is on the floor, it doesn’t matter the length of time. It has been proven that it doesn’t matter if a food item has been on the floor for five seconds or ten minutes; the food was still on the ground and it still gathers bacteria no matter how much time it was there. In my house, we don’t have a five second rule, because I also have a dog that will eat anything on the floor. So even if food does get on the floor, we don’t even have time to pick it up before my dog eats it.

  11. This article is about the “5 second rule” and if its true that if you pick up a piece of food that has fallen on the ground within five seconds its safe to eat. In the article it says its not safe because within seconds it is covered with bacteria. I can’t agree or disagree with this article because I have a dog and whatever falls on the ground she eats. But if something that can harm her like grapes or chocolate falls on the floor we pick it up and throw it out. So at my house the “5 second rule doesnt exist.

  12. This article talked about the 5 second rule and if it was safe. This article is very interesting in many ways. It shows people that it doesn’t matter how long the food has been on the floor, it still gets infected. I think this is very good because many people use the 5 second rule because they think it is safe. After they read this article they should know not to do it again.

  13. I disagree with this artical about how the the five second rule shouldn’t exist. I believe that though there are billions of bacteria on the ground that can get you ill, but in some places like at home the five second rule could apply because in my oppinion it isn’t as harmful as stated. I believe this because I have followed this rule my whole life but, the ten second rule was the only difference. Even with the “harmful bacteria” I have never gotten sick under these circumstances.

    • I don’t agree with you because what if you do get sick. This isn’t about what happened before it is trying to inform you about what could happen so. Maybe you do get sick from that, would you do that again and risk the chance of getting sick again?

  14. This article did a very good job of convincing me that the 5 second rule shouldn’t be a rule at all. Until now, when food dropped on the floor, I would yell,”5 second rule!” and eat it. Now, after reading the article I realize that it is potentially dangerous to my health. With that, shall never follow the 5 second rule again.

  15. This article explains why their is no 5 second rule. I think it varies on what food you are eating and how clean the floor is. If the floor is very clean and you are eating something that is dry like a cracker, there is really around a 2 second rule. It also depends on how badly you want to eat the food. If it is something you didn’t really want in the first place, you probably will just throw it out.

    • I like your idea about how if its something you want. i didnt even think about that. If i was on an island and it was my only food, I wouldnt hesitate to eat, but if i had a choice, i would probably throw the food away.

  16. This article is about the five-second rule for food that is dropped. As Dr. Roy M. Gulick said “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.” After reading this article I dont think the five-second rule is reliable. I always thought that the longer you drop something the more bacteria clings onto the food. But I was wrong, germs immediately jump onto food. Now I know to never use the five-second rule again.

  17. This article talks about how the 5 second rule doesn’t exist. I do agree what they are saying. I have never used the 5 second rule. I just never ate food off the ground. I usually just throw it away. Bacteria still gets on the food if it was on the ground for one second or one hour. This is why I would never eat off the ground. I think more people should be aware of this because people don’t realize how many germs get on the food even if it was on the ground for only 5 seconds. I think a lot less people would follow this 5 second rule.

    • I agree with you, but since I have a dog I let her eat anything that falls on the floor. But if i didn’t have a dog I still wouldn’t use the “5 second rule” because like you said “people don’t realize how many germs get on the food even if it was only on the ground for 5 seconds.” I don’t know how much germs get on the food within 5 seconds, but I know it’s alot so therefore I wouldn’t take part in the “5 second rule.”

  18. The point of this article was to show that there is no “5 second” rule, only a zero second rule. After reading this article I was surprised that bacteria clings to the food as soon as it hits the ground. I never really wondered if it was safe to eat something if it was only on the ground for a couple seconds because as a kid, I never followed that rule. I would throw something out the second it hit the floor. It’s gross to actually think that people eat foods after people’s shoes which are covered in all sorts of dirt and who knows what, have touched the exact same spot where something they’re putting into their mouth is. Next time I see someone use the 5 second rule I think I’ll let them know what their putting into their mouth.

  19. This article talks about the 5 second rule and how it isn’t something people should go by. Dr. Gulick said, “if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact”. This means that no matter how long the food is on the floor it will still collect bacteria or germs. I personally don’t go by the 5 second rule because you never know what was on the floor before your food.

    • I agree with you about how you never know what was on the floor before your food. I liked how you put a quote in your response.

  20. I think that this article is mainly about what not to do when food is dropped on the floor. I don’t usually drop food, but when I do, I never eat it because when I get sick, I am out of school for a week minimum. I think that when people brush off a cookie for example after they’ve dropped it, they are just transferring the germs to another surface, their hand or their shirt. I thought that this article is very interesting because I never thought about if the 5 second rule really was true.

  21. This article is about how the five second rule is untrue. I have always believed in the five second rule, I probably practice it every day. It astonishes me that with a second or two germs already made a home on my edible item. In my 14 years I must have tarnished and destroyed 1,000,000+ homes by new. I feel like a monster.

    • I’m sorry matt but I can’t say I agree with you. I’m not a germophobe, like some other people, but I just don’t think that it is healthy to eat food off the floor. In the article, they said that only 10 salmonella bacteria can give you gastroenteritis. I think that eating off the floor is too much of a risk for getting sick. I’m giving this advice to you not only as a friend, but as a fellow bro, don’t eat food off the floor.

    • I agree with you Matt. I must have destroyed as many homes as you have. I don’t think I’m going to follow the 5 second rule anymore for my health’s sake.

  22. This article clearly states that no matter how long food is on the ground, it will still contain the same amount of bacteria that will harm you. I found this very interesting, because growing up I usually followed the 3 or 5 second rule, unless the ground was noticeably very dirty. I never knew that the same amount of bacteria was in something on the ground for 5 seconds, and something on the ground for 30 seconds. This makes me wonder what kind of stuff i’ve eaten in my life! I completely agree that more people should read this article, because it will make them realize how bad it is. It was very interesting to hear all of this. You would normally think “Oh, it was just 5 seconds, it will be fine, no big deal,” but nobody actually realizes that it’s harmful to your body.

    • I agree witth you because when I was little I always would follow the five second rule unless dirt or something noticeable ended up on what I was eating. This article is very helpful and I agree more people should read this and be aware that the five second rule shouldn’t exsist.

    • I agree with you that it is important for more people to read this article. I can connect to what you said that you never thought that almost the same amount of germs will be on your food no matter how long it is on the floor.

  23. The article is simply saying: do not eat food when it is dropped on the floor. No matter how long it is there, 1 second or a minute, it still has just as much bacteria on it. Personally, I never understood why people even thought about eating food off the floor even if it was picked up the second it fell. The only thing that would at least seem close to safe would be eating something off the floor that has a natural cover on it that you wouldn’t eat regularly. For example, a banana can be dropped but you wouldn’t eat the outside. Although this may be safe, I still wouldn’t risk eating off the floor. Overall, I believe if it’s on the floor, throw it out, get something new, and eat over a plate.

    • I agree with you 100%. I never understood why people ate food off the ground either, its gross. I like your point that the only exception is something that has a wrapping on it that you’ll take off. What’s the big deal? You can always get another one, and I rather spend a couple dollars buying something new than getting sick. Good job.

  24. This article clearly states that no matter how long food is on the floor for after dropped, it still isn’t safe, even if the “five second rule is used.” The same amount of germs are attracted to the food the moment it hits the floor as well as if it has been sitting there for upwards of a minute. As a kid I always followed the five second rule, unless I knew that the floor was very dirty. Up until reading this article, I would use the same principal without counting to five as I did when I was younger. Not anymore. Now if I drop food I’ll either give it to the dog or throw it out. I think that the “five second rule” not working should be shared with younger children because they wouln’t really hear about this otherwise.

    • I completely agree with you. I also used to use the “5 second rule.” Well, now that I have read this article, I will never eat anything off the floor again. I also think that parents should tell kids not to use the “5 second rule.”

  25. The main point of this article is to show that the,”5 second rule” does not exist. The second a piece of food touches the ground thousands germs are already on it. As a kid if I dropped a piece of popcorn on the floor I would try to pick it up as quickly as possible. However after reading this article I will think twice about my actions. Dr. Roy M Gulick said, “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.” This subject should be taken more seriously, and should be shared with younger children so they don’t become ill from something as little as the,”5 second rule”.

    • I agree that this should be shared with younger kids. I used to be the same way as you following the five second rule, but now, I too will think twice.

  26. This article is mainly about how no matter how long the food is on the ground it still gets all the bacteria on it. I was very surprised when I read that the 5 second rule should become the 0 second rule. I did not think at all that the food would have all that bacteria on it even after just one second. In my family we sometimes would go by the 5 second rule for certain things. But what if a piece of fruit, like a strawberry, fell on the floor for 5 seconds and you washed it off, would it still have all that bacteria on it?

  27. I never would have thought that almost all bacteria on the floor transferred to the food immediately. This article will definitely make me think twice about picking up something off the floor. And if this is true, what about other things bacteria can spread to? The keyboard I’m typing this on could have tons of bacteria on it! While you shouldn’t be a “Germ Nazi”, I think it should be something to be aware of.

  28. I think that the 5 second rule shouldn’t exist, “The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule,” said Dr. Roy M. The five second rule is just a saying that many people, including me, use when they drop food on the floor. Bacteria will cling to the food immediately when it reaches the floor, no matter what type of floor it is on. This makes the food unsafe to eat and “poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease”. Instead of picking up the dropped food and eating it, just throw it out.

    • I agree. if something gets dropped on the ground and covered in bacteria, throw it out! Its better to do that than to risk it and put dirty bacteria covered food into your body. Now, I will change my ways and stop using the 5 second rule.

  29. I think that this is an interesting article because I would not expect that “99 percent of bacteria is transferred nearly immediately.” I don’t think that when I was a kid I followed the ‘5 second rule’, I think that I just never ate anything off of the floor unless I knew for sure that it was clean. I thought it was interesting that Dr. Roy M. Gulick said “The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule,” because I didn’t think that the rule was that incorrect. I will make sure for now on that I never eat anything off the floor.

    • I really liked you quote about the ‘zero second rule’ I think that was a good little sum up of the whole article

  30. This article is about the well known ‘Five Second Rule’, which is actually untrue. It wouldn’t matter if the food was on the ground for 1 minute or 5 seconds, it all collects the same amount of bacteria. I never really followed the five second rule, unless it on was on my floor that I knew was clean. Besides that any food dropped on the ground I usually throw out. “In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact, Dr. Gulick said” I wasn’t expecting this to be true, knowing how small bacteria is.

    • I agree with you completely. I also do not eat food off the floor unless I am in my house or I know that it is clean. I thought that the quote you used was interesting because I didn’t realize how quickly bacteria attached to food.

    • I completely agree with you. I wasn’t expecting this to be true either, knowing how small bacteria is. Also I throw away food when I drop it in public, I usually don’t throw away dropped food when its at my house.

  31. I agree with this article that the five-second rule should not exist. Bacteria can gather on the food that can be harmful to your body. People everywhere say there should be a five-second rule to save money, so they don’t have to rebuy it. The five-second rule saves them, and makes them think the bacteria didn’t gather on the piece of food. What people don’t understand is that it doesn’t take five seconds for bacteria to cling onto the food, the bacteria clings right away. The food is then unsafe, but people want to believe it is safe. Everyone understand’s that when people drop food it is by accident, but that shouldn’t change the fact that there is bacteria surrounding it. However some foods its ok when it hits the floor. For example bananas and oranges have peels so the eatable part isn’t covered by bacteria. Other foods that are heated are also okay when dropped on the floor, but others aren’t okay.

    • I agree. If the part that hits the floor is a peel, wrapper, bag, shell, etc that will not be ingested, the food is still safe to eat. For instance, if I drop a pistachio, the shell won’t be safe, but the nut inside will be.

    • I agree with you, the 5 second rule shouldn’t exist. It’s not safe and it is kind of gross. I also like your thinking on the peel with oranges and bananas. Good job!

  32. I think that the five second rule should become the zero second rule. With all of the bacteria that enters your food from the floor, it seems ridiculous that we would still allow ourselves to eat it after five seconds of the bacteria seeping in to it. Zero seconds is much better because we probably will only be exposed to half, if not less then all the bacteria on the floor.

  33. I think that it was interesting to hear that studies show that the five second rule is not an accurate indicator of the amount of time food can stay on the floor before picking up harmful bacteria. I do not think that the five second rule is a reliable indicator of this, since the floor is probably the dirtiest place in your house, since any bacteria, dirt, or other disgusting stuff that could be on your shoes are tracked through the house and could end up on the floor. Because of this, I don’t think it’s worth the chance of getting sick to eat your food after it’s fallen on the ground. Just throw it out and be safe.

  34. I have discouraged the five second rule for a long time. I have read articles about this subject before and it makes perfect sense. I don’t get the point of “letting the dog get it”. The dog or other animal is still ingesting the bacteria on the floor. Just take the two seconds to pick up the dropped food and either wash it or throw it out.

  35. To me the rule doesnt matter unless it has been there for a while, or has been on a ” Questionable” suface. It does seem logical that germs would cling on almost instantly, and it does not suprise me one bit that it does. There should certainly not be a five second rule, it should be a can i just wash it off sort of rule. For example, if you drop an apple on the floor you can just pick it back up and wash it in your sink, you do not throw away an entire apple just becuase it touched the ground. The “apple” rule should apply to all food, “Can I wash it off?”.

  36. This article is about the five-second rule for dropped food, although, it should be called the zero-second rule. Bacteria will cling to food almost immediately on contact with the food. “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk,” Dr. Roy M. Gulick said. I haven’t followed the five-second rule since 3rd grade. Now I just find it gross, no matter how long the food was on the ground for, to pick it up and eat it.

    • I agree with you. It is ridiculous and gross that we eat food that has fallen on the ground, it seems like common sense not to.

  37. gingerjames12

    I agree 100% with what Dr. Gulick said. There shouldn’t be a 5 second rule at all because in only 2 seconds, thousands of germs can get on food that has been dropped. Maybe something like M&Ms with a hard outer shell would be okay but something like ham or cheese or bologna would be disgusting because dirt and germs would stick to it more easily. Like they said, the germs on the wood and tile transferred almost immediately and many cafeteria or kitchen floors are wood or tile and most drops occur in those two areas. Dr. Gulick said, “In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact.” Just that sentence alone makes me never want to even touch the floor with anything but my feet.

    • How does the outer shell of an M&M make it okay to eat after it has been on the ground? Wouldn’t the bacteria still stick?

    • I don’t think that the outer shell of an m&m would escape the germs on the floor. But fruit and veggies with a “natural wrapper” like bananas and advacatos should be safe, provided you do not go and eat the outside.

      • I agree with you 100% Andy. I think that bananas and avacados would still be safe to eat when they still have their outer layer. Other foods may not be safe to eat after being on the floor, but as long as you don’t eat the outer layer of fruits like bananas and avacados, it is probably perfectly safe to eat them after they were on the ground.

        • i just thought that with M&Ms that the slick shell around the chocolate would attract less germs than something like bologna that isn’t as dry as M&Ms. If you try to wipe dust off of a table with a dry sponge, nothing will happen but if you use a wet sponge, more dust is picked up. The same thing applies, the shell of the M&M will still get germs but not a lot due to the fact that it is dry. With something like bologna however, since it is wet, more germs will be picked up, like dirt with the wet sponge. I didn’t mean to say that an M&M wouldn’t get any germs, I just meant that it wouldn’t get as much as bologna or cheese.

      • I would agree with you Andy but, why should you risk it anyway? Germs are small and there are probably gaps large enough to let germs go through in any kind of outer layer. It may be less of a risk, but a risk is a risk and it’s not always safe.

      • Well Andy, fruits like bananas and oranges are perfectly okay to eat because you are tearing off the “natural wrapper” and eating what is inside of it. Andy I like your thinking, with the “natural wrapper”, very wise.

    • I agree with you everywhere. That was a really good thought about the M&M’s thing and I would think that too.

    • I agree with James when he says that there should not be a five second rule. However, I dont think it would be a good idea to even eat M&Ms off of the floor, because you are still eating that shell which the bacteria has contaminated.

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