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?
Research has proved that the 5-second rule is wrong. Bacteria can attach to food even if it's picked up very fast. So it's not a good idea to eat food that has hit the floor.
While floors that look dirty are obvious hazards, even floors that appear clean can harbor bacteria. Some germs can survive on floors for a long time, and without a powerful microscope it's impossible to determine how many are present.
Bacteria can attach to food as soon as it hits the floor. That means that even food left on the floor just for an instant can become contaminated if conditions are right. And foods with wet surfaces, like an apple slice, can pick up bacteria more easily. The longer food is on the floor, the more bacteria it will accumulate.
Some bacteria are not harmful. But others can make a person sick. You can't see the bacteria and, even if you could, it doesn't take many to make someone sick.
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: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2011
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. Call: (800) CDC-INFO|
|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.|
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