Does the 5-second rule really work? Ask Smithsonian (Smithsonian.com)
Does the 5-second rule really work?
Lexile

The 5-second rule states that food dropped on the floor for less than 5 seconds is still safe to eat. But to really answer the question, we need to ask another how lucky do you feel?

It can take less than 5 seconds for 150 to 8,000 bacteria like Salmonella to hop a ride onto dropped food and eventually into your body where they can wreak havoc. If you wait a full minute before savoring that tasty morsel from the floor, and youre looking at ten times as many bacterial freeloaders.

Now, not all bacteria are bad for you, but eating food off the floor is a bit like playing Russian roulette with your stomach. Your chances of picking up a nasty hitchhiker by sampling food off the bathroom or even kitchen floor are pretty good.We track harmful agents like fecal bacteria around on the soles of our shoes all the time, so no floor surface is guaranteed to be a safe bet.

A little bacteria goes a long way. The infectious dose the smallest number of bacteria needed to make you sick is as low as 10 bacteria for some types of Salmonella. Lots of very unlucky people about 1 in 6 Americans end up on the losing end of the deal and get sick from foodborne illnesses every year.

So the next time you drop food on the ground, you might want to think twice before dusting it off and tossing it down the hatch. Bon appetit!

Critical thinking challenge: Why is 1 minute more risky than 5 seconds?
 

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COMMENTS (107)
  • KalynSi
    5/16/2014 - 11:34 a.m.

    Eating food off the floor is gross to begin with but now that there can be life threatening bacteria on it in only a few seconds makes it even worse. From now on I'll make sure to tell anyone who thinks it's funny to eat food off the floor.

  • lisettem-Koc
    5/16/2014 - 11:48 a.m.

    I don't believe in the 5 second rule. If any food falls on the ground I refuse to pick it up and eat it. It doesn't matter how many seconds the food is on the ground it's very unsanitary. And I would never eat it.

  • alea-Koc
    5/16/2014 - 12:52 p.m.

    One minute is more risky than 5 seconds because the food can receive a lot more germs in 1 whole minute that's 60 seconds & people step on the floor after walking outside in the street & its not sanitary.
    -Ale, Avila :)

  • kw12pink
    5/16/2014 - 01:05 p.m.

    That is disgusting. Who eats off the floor? But I didn't know how fast bacteria travels on one piece of food. Tha's amazing how quickly bacteria, germs, etc can travel on food.

    • salvador98anchondo
      5/19/2014 - 10:49 a.m.

      I agree with you because I did not know how fast bacteria could travel in food when it lands on the floor It can also be sic to eat something of the floor because you dont know whats been in the floor.

  • BrandonI
    5/16/2014 - 01:50 p.m.

    I remember watching a mythbusters episode about this. They tested to see if the five second rule really does work. They said it was plausible, obviously because it matters were you drop it. So depending on were you drop it the five seconds rule does work.

  • KailynPa
    5/16/2014 - 01:54 p.m.

    I have never followed the five second rule because it really grosses my out no matter how long it's been on the floor. The facts presented in this article just confirmed my opinion even more.

  • brintons
    5/16/2014 - 01:58 p.m.

    1 minute is more risky than 5 seconds because the food is on the floor 12 times longer than it would be on 5 seconds therefore its more vulnerable to pick up bacteria and other harmful germs.

  • IsaiahColeman
    5/16/2014 - 02:31 p.m.

    It depends more on how wet the food is. Chicken covered in sauce is worse than just cooked chicken, for example. It is just better if you throw it away.

  • carsonl-Orv
    5/16/2014 - 02:33 p.m.

    I do this all the time and never thought how much germs can get on 1 piece of food. well I still believe in 5 second rule even if it has all those germs.

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