Does the 5-second rule really work? Ask Smithsonian (
Does the 5-second rule really work?

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. What happens if you wait a full minute before savoring that tasty morsel from the floor? 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 is the smallest number of bacteria needed to make you sick. It can be 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. That's how many 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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  • chaseh-Orv
    5/16/2014 - 02:21 p.m.

    I've actually know about this for a while. As a kid i was all ways going my the 3 second rules, (the same thing as this just for 3 seconds) but now that I've gotten older and smarter i don't do this anymore for this reason. I saw a video on this a while back and haven't done it since. And for the question why 1 minute could be worse than 5 seconds, its because bacteria can multiply. Lets say you drop your apple and pick it up after 3 seconds, you may have, and I'm no expert, 3,000 bacteria on your apple, if you wait a minute for them to multiply, you could have 180,000 bacteria on your apple now.

  • jborchardt7
    5/16/2014 - 02:37 p.m.

    I don't think the 5 second rule is 100% safe. To me, it's sort of unsanitary to eat food off the floor. It's a risk to eat food off of the floor. It scares me to think that many bacteria can get onto food in less than 5 seconds. I suggest always washing food that falls to the floor.

  • Logv-DollLover
    5/16/2014 - 02:55 p.m.

    1 minute is more risky than 5 seconds because the more time the food is on the floor, the more germs get on it. So there will be 10 times the germs on the food after 1 minute then 5 seconds. I have always thought the 5 second rule was disgusting.

  • david8eagles
    5/16/2014 - 03:26 p.m.

    You could rub food on the bottom of your shoe and eat it, and it wouldn't be much different than eating off the floor. I'm not going to eat anything off the floor again. That's disgusting.

  • Smit-Gab123
    5/16/2014 - 03:42 p.m.

    10 bacteria to 1,000, I'll still eat food if it just hit the floor. It's never harmed me and I don't believe it will harm me anytime soon.

  • traw-KK
    5/16/2014 - 03:45 p.m.

    the one minute rule is more risky bc more grums can get on it faster than 5 sec bc of how they move and yeah I do not kno at all

  • berr-berry
    5/16/2014 - 03:51 p.m.

    a b b b b b b b b b bb b b b b b b b b b b b b b b bb b bb bb bb bb

  • AnnikaH-2
    5/16/2014 - 04:04 p.m.

    In summary, the 5 second rule does not really work. In the time allotted by the rule, thousands of bacteria could have already jumped onto you food. The chances that the bacteria is bad for you is pretty high. About 1 in 6 people in America get sick from their food every year.
    I think this is disgusting, but I have followed the 5 second rule my whole life and have yet to get sick from it.

  • EvanF-2
    5/16/2014 - 05:35 p.m.

    Some people call "five second rule" after they drop food. This myth has proven not to be entirely true, because in 5 seconds 150 to 8,000 bacteria can get on the food. Although some bacteria is needed in your stomach, barely any harmful bacteria is needed to make you sick.
    I think that this is an important article that will save a lot of people from getting sick. Although we may dro food that we desperately want to eat, after it lands on the ground it shouldn't be consumed, it should be thrown away.

  • RyanB-4
    5/16/2014 - 06:31 p.m.

    The five second rule is one food is dropped on the floor and picked up before five seconds. Scientists at asked is it really safe to eat. It can take less than five seconds for thousands of bacteria to get on that food. Some of the bacteria can be good for you though.
    This is an interesting article. I normally do not use the five second rule. It is pretty gross.