Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

5 Second Rule: Truth?

February 24, 2014Food

Have you heard of the five-second rule? That moment when you drop a tasty morsel of food on the ground, your heart sinks - you were looking forward to eating that! Is it safe to eat it if you're able to pick it up within five seconds?


We were curious if there was any truth to the five-second rule, so we reached out to Keith R. Schneider, PhD, Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Florida.


Dr. Schneider: There is no truth in the “five-second rule.” We constantly remind people in our fact sheets - There is no five-second rule when it comes to food safety! Millions of bacteria and other germs can be transferred immediately on contact. The truth is if there is contamination on the spot where your food hits, it will be contaminated almost instantly. Now, you’ve probably heard that “I’ve been eating food off the floor for 40 years and I’ve never gotten sickā€¦” and that could be true, but it's not because of the five-second rule, its just that person just hasn’t dropped their food in a spot that was contaminated or in a spot contaminated with enough bacteria to make them sick.


"Pathogenic bacteria (or parasites, viruses) aren’t (for the most part) everywhere in the environment. They tend to die off quickly when out of the body (or host). With that said, if you just handled raw chicken, you’d have no problem finding it all around your kitchen for several days. If you drop something on that day, in that kitchen, the probability of finding pathogenic bacteria will be higher than if you drop something in the living room. Thus, while its rare for someone to get sick, it can happen. Note: age, health, immune state, etc. also play an important role in whether or not someone get sick."


For more on food safety, check out the Best Food Facts topics page.