The Five-Second Rule

800px-Floris_Claesz._van_Dyck_001I have always thought that the five-second rule was stupid. The five-second rule is the belief that if food falls on the floor and you pick it up within five seconds, it’s safe to eat. Well, there’s actually some evidence now that shows that I may be wrong.

Researchers at Ashton University in the United Kingdom conducted a study in which they had students drop food on the floor, food such as toast (heated, crisp bread), pasta (Italian dish with noodles or other shapes made with flour), cookies, and candy. Then, they measured how much bacteria (very small living things that can cause illness and disease) gets on each type of food for different durations (periods of time) ranging from three to 30 seconds.

The longer the food remained on the floor, the more bacteria there was on it. How much bacteria gets on it depends on two other things.

Not surprising, wet foods pick up more bacteria.

Hard flooring also resulted in more bacteria. Tile (hard flooring in squares, made of material that has been baked) or laminate (hard flooring made of several layers of pressed material, usually made to look like wood) floors resulted in more bacteria on food than carpet (soft covering on the floor installed wall to wall).

However, the researchers say that this doesn’t mean it’s okay to eat off the floor, because your risk (chance of being harmed) depends also on what type of bacteria is on the floor at that time.

But these results are good news to most people. About 87% of people surveyed (asked questions for research purposes) in the study said that they ate food that had fallen on the floor.

Given (as a result of) these results, I will do my best to only eat dry foods while sitting on carpet, and not worry about the extra flavoring (something placed on food to enhance its taste) and garnish (something put on food to make it look more attractive) I get from that carpet if my food falls on it.  Yum!

– Lucy

Image Credit:  Floris Claesz. van Dyck from Wikipedia

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12 Responses to The Five-Second Rule

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Lucy,
    How have you been?
    U have disused it before , haven’t you?
    Anyway, I m a staunch follower of the 5 second rule.
    In fact , I have been doing it since I remember.
    I have no recollection of me getting sick or anything as a result.
    I m a real cultz. U know , clumsy at best !!!
    Keeps slipping out of my hands. I have butter fingers
    I have a tendency to drop stuff
    So , i m guessing , I practice the rule more than anybody else around the blog
    But , I wouldn’t do it with sticky food
    The rule doesn’t apply there
    The nanosecond you drop a sticky food like lollipop or so on the floor , it gets everything on it .no matter what type of floor it is
    laminated , hard flooring , rug , carpet , porcelain ,or what not
    Well , it does make sense .
    bacterias need time to travel from one surface to another. right !?

    But , they must be quite fast though , given the size of bacterias.
    They are minuscule for most part. So tiny that are not visible to naked eyes.
    Incidentally , I ate some French fries off the floor just recently. Allow to narrate the story :
    I m at this ritzy , cozy , candle-lit resturant with some friends of mine. We r having a heated discussion about the economy doing poorly and all while having our food
    Right in the middle of discussion ,I got all worked up and start moving my hands around frantically as I was trying hard to prove my points that all if a sudden, I knocked a basket of french fires off the table and on the floor. Right after , I bend over and grab a fist of them and put it in my month all at once

    All My friends were like : “Oh , gross !!!! You are disgusting!!!”

    Needless to say , My move shifted a very serious , monotonous , boring , tedious discussion to a fun discussion!!
    And , I ended up taking a dare
    The dared me to drop a small pice of my apple pie on the floor and then eat it at the second 4
    Well, I took the dare
    And I went to bed with a grumbling upset stomach !!!!
    Guys , the moral result of the story is
    some times, it is best to weight your words before you have them out.
    If u wanna sleep soundly :)) with no stomach problems :))

    Pete : a kid from Ontario

  2. Dent says:

    That is very simple to understand that there are countless micro organisms in the floor ,so bacterias are the small group of these micro organism’s collection!
    Of course there are many normal bacterial flora in human’s body, in everywhere of body. For example in throat ,in digestion system , in teeth , in skin and etc.
    Being these normal flora bacterias isn’t dangerous ,but they are necessary for body and efficient.
    But these useful bacterias maybe one day being enemy of body! What day?? When a person get cancer ,his/her defensive system will weaker and then these normal flora bacterias can be harmful.

  3. Myo ko ko says:

    Ha ha,
    Lucy, you are so funny as always! 😉

    Sure, the toppings you got from the carpet for your food will be so tasty and so yummy!

    Hey, apparently this rule doesn’t apply to ice creams, I think!

    Imagine, sitting upon a carpet, you’re gobbling a semi-melting ice cream up,
    while your eyes glueing to the TV screen before you.
    And all of sudden it slips from your hand onto the carpet (it is, according to
    you, definitely the place where it gets its yummy garnish! 😉 ).
    You are there! There is no way to eat off the carpet!

    Thanks, Lucy
    I miss you all. <3

    Myo ko ko

  4. emiliano says:

    Dear Lucy, I have never thought that food on the floor gets bacteria depending of the time that food remains on the floor, five seconds rule?.
    Funny, no body that I treat has this rule in mind, first time I have read something about that, and it is curious the differents habits people
    have depending the country or tradition.

    By my point of view and having in mind what I have seen there are persons that throw away which ever food that could fall on the floor, but
    there are other that it depends the kind of food, liquid of course to the trash but if there is a biscuit, a piece of fruit, or other solid food the
    custom could be to wash the fruit, or other similar food.

    I am among the second, wash the fruit, clean the biscuit……and eat the food.
    Isabel, the friend that is here helping us throw away everything that could fall on the floor, she is the cleanest one of the house.

    Thank you so much dear Lucy, but you have not tell us which kind of person do you are, the cleanest one, the five second, or the washing
    the fruit, the olive, the apple or the cherry?.


  5. Dan says:

    Hello everyone,

    Usually, when I drop something I was eating on the floor, I curse a lot. After doing that almost religiously, I pick it up, trow it away and curse a little bit more.

    To tell you the truth, I did not know about this 5 second rule till I started looking at videos posted from Americans on You Tube a few years ago.

    One of those videos, which I recommend watching, is called The 5 Second Rule posted by CatharsisPictures. I find that really funny.


  6. Eri says:

    Hi. Lucy
    Thanks for your interesting story as always.
    I didn’t know that you have the rule about the fallen food on the floor in the US.
    We also have the three-second rule that is like you showed us in Japan. Honestly I don’t like to eat something fallen on the floor, so I never believe the rule.
    But it’s interesting there’s survey about it at the University.



  7. A+M says:

    Dear Jeff and Lucy our wonderful script writer

    I have heard about 6-second rules in an idiomatic dictionary, now I am thinking either this rule has been updated or bacteria have been modified genetically.

    Best regards

    From beautiful Iran

  8. emiliano says:

    Just a remark my dear teacher Lucy.

    By my side usually food doesn´t fall on the floor, the rule use to be that
    the nice pasta, tortilla, and every kind of tasted food falls on my shirt, sweater
    or my trouser, so I have to get up, throw away the little piece of food or souce
    and trying to clean the stain with talcum powder.

    I like to have the “talcum powder” just at hand to treat the stains of
    my shirt or pants as soon as possible.

    Spanish people like olive oil and it is typical that some drops of oil or tomatoe
    souce fell on our shirt, trouser, skirt or which ever other garment we could wear.

    Talcum powder on the oil/souce stains it is the best solution to clean immediately
    that little food accident, but you have to sprinkle the talcum at the moment, just
    as it is done on the baby’s bottom.

    Thank you Lucy.


  9. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    The first rule is “don’t let your food fall on the floor”. If it happens, don’t get it back. You may curse a little and get mad about it, but better let the bacterium play their role in this planet. Of course, they start to decompose the food to make it become some kind of manure and make it available for other living beings like plants. I think it is better to be careful about to eat dirty things. Let God bless your food and avoid it not fall on the floor.
    Aecio, from the country that has the most tasteful food in the world.

  10. Narges says:

    Dear my teacher Lucy,
    In my country when someone’s food fall on the floor, she would pick it up quickly and blow on it then eat it !!!!!!!!!
    Of course I never allow my daughter to do that.
    Narges from Iran

  11. Betty says:

    It’s amazing, Lucy, thanks for this funny article with good sense of humour. I didn’t know there is such a rule for dropped food.

    Funny enough, I accidentally dropped a small piece of banana on the tile floor this morning. I was trying to cut off the bruised parts of the banana and then the very small end part of the banana simply fell out from its skin.

    I almost never eat food that has dropped on the floor, let alone it is a tiny piece of over ripen banana. I picked it up with a tissue to make sure I didn’t have to wash my hand afterwards, within 2 second. I can’t understand how people can wait for 5 seconds to pick up dropped food from the floor if they want to save it and eat it.

    Lucy it is heart broken for me to see some people finding food and drink from rubbish bins in the street. No one want to know about this fact, but I saw it with my own eyes!

    Well, our world still has so much ugly things that probably will never cease to happen.

    Thanks Emiliano for telling us this time last year that Lucy celebrates her birthday on 5th May because in Tucson they celebrate “The Day of the Battle of Puebla” with a feast.

    Hope Lucy you don’t dropped any wet food on hard flooring tomorrow.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  12. Betty says:

    Sorry typo:

    Hope Lucy you don’t dropped any wet food on hard flooring tomorrow.

    Should read as:

    Hope Lucy you don’t drop any wet food on hard flooring tomorrow.


    Betty 🙂

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