Myth or Fact? The 5-Second Rule

Crop from Greg Williams' Wikiworld, via wikimedia commons (CC).
Crop from Greg Williams’ Wikiworld, via wikimedia commons (CC).

Happy Wednesday! In putting together next week’s Mother’s Day post, the issue of the “5 second rule” came to mind. I thought I’d dig a little deeper. Where did it come from? How many people eat food they’ve dropped? In their decision to still eat the food, does it matter where they dropped it, or what it was? These are the things I ponder on my hump day morning.

Well, this might tempt me… (pic by K.B. Owen)

Not that I actually eat food dropped on the floor, mind you. 😉


Here are a few tidbits I found along the way:

  • In one survey, 87% of the people said they’ve eaten (or would eat) food dropped on the floor.
  • 55% of those people were women.
  • sweet foods were more likely to be eaten after being dropped.
  • Salmonella can survive up to 28 days on surfaces like tile, wood, and carpeted floors.
  • the transfer of germs onto food happens immediately upon contact.
  • A 2007 study at Clemson University found that length of time on the floor makes a difference: bologna and bread slices had 10 times more bacteria after one minute than they had after 5 seconds.
  • carpeting doesn’t transfer bacteria to dropped food as effectively as other surfaces (but do you really want carpet fibers stuck on there? Ick).

Basically, there may be yucky stuff on that Oreo, so it’s better to toss it.

Here’s a Mythbusters’ segment on the 5-second rule. I love these guys!


Dropped snack? No sweat! Study reveals 5-second rule is real –

“5-second rule” rules, sometimes (WebMD)

Dropped your toast? (Science Daily)

Fact or Fiction? The 5-second rule for dropped food (Scientific American)


Do you follow the 5-second rule? What helps you decide? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


4 people like this post.

10 thoughts on “Myth or Fact? The 5-Second Rule”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    So glad you mentioned Jamie and Adam, Kathy! Love that show! And the whole ‘5 second rule’ is fascinating isn’t it? I honestly don’t pick stuff up off the floor myself, but it’s good to know more about what actually happens when things are dropped.

  2. PatriciaPatricia

    If I drop something on the floor at my own house, I will usually eat it, depending on what I’ve dropped. If I drop something anywhere else, I will not, no matter what it is. I guess I figure I’m used to my own germs and therefore won’t get sick.

    I would never even consider eating anything that I’ve dropped in any public place. Nope. Nadda. No, no, no, no, no. Won’t do it. Sometimes I won’t even pick it up without using some kind of napkin or paper wrapper.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  3. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    Depends on how solid the food is, and how non-fuzzy the surface is on which it was dropped. And how desirable the food item. Veggies, never. Chocolate, almost always!

  4. Deborah MakariosDeborah Makarios

    The first question is: has a cat already arrived on the scene to eat it? (or taste it and spit it out again?) If so, dispose of. Other than that it’s a complex calculation involving the relative absorbency of the dropped food and the relative cleanliness of the floor.
    Generally I don’t eat what I’ve dropped on the floor, but that probably says more about the state of my floor than the fastidiousness of my habits!

  5. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    Hee, hee, hee. What a lovely subject Kathy! Sorry I haven’t been around lately. I have been completely out of sync my friend with this move. Still not settled. But…I saved your post in my inbox until I made some time to play catch up.

    Do I eat food off the floor? Uh, no. Gross! As I kid, I may have done that at home. But now, I think I’ve become more germaphobic. In the trash it goes! If you think about it, five seconds is a long time for a piece of food to lie on the floor. Yuck! 🙂


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