/ Food & Drink, Health

Do you follow the five-second rule?

A plate of spaghetti dropped on a carpet

If you drop a piece of food on the floor, do you quickly pick it up and eat it? Or do you throw it away? If you eat it,  you’re a follower of the five-second rule. But is the five-second rule really true?

Of course, if I’m outdoors or in a restaurant I would never eat anything I’d dropped. But at home I flit between following the rule and not. We don’t have a pet or wear shoes inside, so the floor should never be that mucky.

My three-year old son sometimes drops food on the floor by accident if he’s carrying a plate. If it’s something that’s easy to pick up, like fruit (which I will rewash) or a biscuit, I sometimes let him eat it. Other times I make him throw it away.

I’m not really sure what sways my decision, I think it might have something to do with how recently the floor has been washed. I suppose I know that some bacteria will have transferred on to the food, but at the same time I don’t want to shield him from every exposure to bacteria.

Is the five-second rule true?

The BBC and Queen Mary, University of London recently carried out an experiment to see if the five-second rule has any scientific support. They dropped a piece of pizza on a wooden kitchen floor, a slice of apple on a pavement and a piece of toast (butter-side down) on a carpet – each for five seconds.

The food samples were tested for bacteria growth and the results were pretty conclusive – each piece of food picked up lots of bacteria. The experiment even found bacteria on a sample that was dropped and picked up within one second.

Of course, it’s very hard to recreate the typical family kitchen floor and its unique blend of bacteria. There are some theories that say a bit of bacteria is good for both adults and children, but where should we draw the line? Do you live by the five-second rule or do you immediately bin any food that gets dropped?

Do you ever eat food that's been on the floor?

Sometimes, it depends on what the food is (39%, 164 Votes)

Never, yuck! (28%, 116 Votes)

Yes, but never in a public place (20%, 85 Votes)

Yes, I always follow the five-second rule (12%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 417

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i think it depends on how clean you think were it lands is

I think the scientists should have tested the bacteria on food after you’ve picked it off the floor and blown on it. That’s where the magic happens.

The “scientists” should have tested food that had never been on the floor, to see how much bacteria was on the food itself in the first place. What they did was not a properly scientific experiment – more of a public stunt.

From the disclaimer on the BBC site, I think the study was conducted scientifically and in-depth – this report was just a quick snapshot to demonstrate the main point of the research.

For me – I think the ‘wetness’ of the food has an impact! Anything that could ‘soak up’ bacteria will go straight in the bin (like pizza, buttered toast etc). But a biscuit or a crisp is usually fine after a quick brush-off. We’re funny creatures, aren’t we?

The “scientists” could see how much bacteria is on it before and after it has touched the ground

This would be a standard control if the study was conducted scientifically. It can be useful to simplify the information to help the general public understand information. I am glad that Jennifer pointed out the disclaimer because I missed it.

For the record, I would eat a whole apple if it had been on the floor, provided it had been washed. Most other things would go in the bin.

No need for any rule if a dog is resident. Most dogs I know operate a five millisecond rule, that being the time between them hearing anything with a chance of being edible landing on the floor and them pouncing in it.

you are correct i have a dog and it would be gone in about 0.0005 seconds hehe

If it isnt the dog is either ill or overfed.

MikeEm says:
4 April 2013

Stop assuming things because I’ve never heard of the five-second rule so I cannot complete your survey.

And no, I do not eat anything I’ve dropped on the floor.

CHRIS says:
4 April 2013

Being a Caterer we all know what the eye does not see !!! I will but not in public the trouble with food hygiene is we are to clean for our own good therefore do not build up any resistance

Many cases of food poisoning are due to catering establishments, which is why premises are inspected and training is in place. Gastroenteritis can result in hospitalisation and is occasionally fatal, but in most cases it is just very unpleasant.

If you study microbiology, I think you will learn that you are unlikely to ‘build up resistance’ to some bacteria.

If anyone is going to eat food that has been dropped on the floor then please cook it promptly to kill the bacteria that are on even the cleanest floors.

It depends where and what I drop. If I dropped my last slice of bread or roll on my own clean kitchen floor then I would pick it up. If I dropped it on the pavement outside then it would go in the nearest bin. If I dropped a piece of fruit anywhere or any ‘wet’ product then it would go in the bin.

I have watched men pick up and eat more food from the floor than women do.
Is this instinct or education in operation?