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

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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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Assigned 157 times

  • KieranS-4
    5/16/2014 - 06:45 p.m.

    The 5-second rules applies to all food dropped on the floor. This rule states that if you pick up food before 5 seconds has passed, it is still good to eat. This is not true. After only 5 seconds, 150 to 8000 bacteria can attach to the food. Bacteria can be good or bad, but it's best not to eat food on the floor. About 1 in 6 Americans get food sickness from dropped food.

    I agree that eating food off the floor isn't good, but don't waste food if you drop it. If the floor looks clean enough and the food isn't sticky, I'd say its still okay to eat.

  • PhoebeG-2
    5/16/2014 - 06:54 p.m.

    You may think that when you drop a piece of food and pick it up in less than 5 seconds you are safe. But you may want to think twice because it can take less than 5 seconds for 150 to 8,000 bacteria to get on your food. Though not all bacteria is bad for you, you will probably pick up bad bacteria like Salmonella.The slightest bit of bacteria can make anybody sick, so you may not want to take that chance. Remember that the bottom of your shoes are not clean, so no floor is safe from bacteria. I think that most people would say that they haven't gotten sick from eating food off the floor, but it is possible. If the food is really good, I think that I may still eat it.

  • ManuelC-3
    5/16/2014 - 06:55 p.m.

    The five second rule states that food dropped on the floor for five seconds is safe to eat. It takes less than five seconds for 150 bacteria to hop a ride onto dropped food. Dropping the food on the floor is dangerous because bacteria can get in and harm your body. A little bacteria goes along way it can make you very sick. One out of four people get sick from picking up food off the floor and getting sick.

    I think this article is interesting because people pick up the food from the floor after five seconds and don't realize what could happen.

  • NaomiC-5
    5/16/2014 - 07:58 p.m.

    No the five second rule does not count because thousands of bacteria attach itself to the food. But not all bacteria is bad for you. But when there is already millions of bad bacteria on the floor no second is safe. This is how many get foodborne diease. About one of six americans get this diease from the five second rule. I'm glad I found this out now that is so gross.

  • RobertC-2
    5/16/2014 - 08:38 p.m.

    The five second rule could work, but it is a risk. It can take less then five seconds for 150-8,000 bacteria to land on your food. The ground is full of lots of bacteria. Some may be healthy, but others are bad and could get you sick. Eating food that has dropped to the ground is like Russian roulette; the reward is great but the odds of you winning to loosing is just not worth it. I thought this article was interesting because i always did the five second rule when I was young. But, I think this article did not really teach us anything because everyone knows that the rule does not work.

  • swimart11
    5/16/2014 - 11:50 p.m.

    Hi it is Christina Scalzo. I think this article is hilarious. So many Americans drop food. then, they pick up the food and think the five second rule makes the food safe to eat. I even do it. But, I have so boundaries. It depends where the food is dropped. If it is dropped in my kitchen I am okay with it. Now lets say it was dropped in the school cafeteria or the mall. That is going to far. I just never knew how many bacteria could get on a piece of food in under 5 seconds.

    ~Christina Scalzo

  • AddisonE-4
    5/17/2014 - 02:03 a.m.

    The five second role does not really work. Bacteria can get on your food very quick, and it does not matter where you are at. This is very good information to know for me because I tend to do this a lot when it comes to food.

  • JustinL-3
    5/17/2014 - 03:44 p.m.

    The popular 5-second rule states that it is ok to eat food dropped before 5 seconds. Even with this belief, 150 to 8,000 bacteria can attach themselves to the food Not all bacteria that hops on is bad for you, but it risks your body for bad things. According to study, 1 in 6 Americans are damaged by the bacteria that the food carries. This is how much sickness comes from during the year, I think that the five second rule is false, and that eating food of the ground is not a good idea.

  • RomanP-4
    5/18/2014 - 10:42 a.m.

    Does the five second rule work?Scientists have done research to see just if it works. They found that on the ground 150-2000 bacteria latch On to your food and into your stomach.

  • miraclet-Orv
    5/18/2014 - 11:04 a.m.

    This is so nasty i don't see how people can follow the 5 second "rule" it is nasty that people eat of the ground that everyone walks on everyday

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