Whenever my son drops food on the floor, he wants to eat it. I discourage him from doing so, but he invokes the "5-second rule" and says that food is safe to eat if you pick it up 5 seconds or less after it has hit the floor. Is that true?
No, it's never a good idea to eat food that has been dropped. The 5-second rule is just wishful thinking — bacteria can attach to food as soon as it hits the floor. And foods with wet surfaces, like an apple slice, pick up bacteria even more easily than, say, a cookie.
The longer the food is on the floor, the more bacteria it will accumulate. But even food that's picked up quickly can be contaminated if conditions are right. While visibly dirty floors are obvious hazards, those that look clean also can harbor bacteria. Some germs can survive on floors for a long time, and without a powerful microscope it's impossible to see them.
So what are you to do with that delicious piece of whatever that just slipped from your grasp? The safest choice is to throw it out.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The USDA works to enhance the quality of life for people by supporting the production of agriculture.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect your family.|
|Food Safety for Your Family Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?|
|Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|Food Poisoning Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|Food Poisoning Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.|
|Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.|
|What Are Germs? Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease. With a little prevention, you can keep harmful germs out of your family's way.|
|Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|The 5-Second Rule Almost everyone has dropped food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. Does the 5-second rule give you the excuse you need? Or is it just a myth?|
|Produce Precautions Kids need daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Here's how to make sure the produce you buy and prepare is safe.|
|Food Safety Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.|
|Salmonellosis People often think of salmonellosis as food poisoning, but food is only one way the bacteria Salmonella can be spread.|
|E. Coli E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can make you pretty sick. Read more in this article for kids.|
|The 5-Second Rule Did you ever eat something off the floor? Uh-oh. Time to read this article for kids about the 5-second rule.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.