Almost everyone has dropped food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. Some people apply the "5-second rule" — that random saying about how food won't become contaminated with bacteria if you pick it up off the floor in 5 seconds or less.
The 5-second rule has become such a part of our culture that scientists actually tested it. As you can probably guess, they found that the "rule" is mostly myth: Bacteria can attach to food even if you pick it up super fast. So, depending on which types of bacteria happen to climb on board, you could still get sick.
Here are two facts to consider whenever you feel tempted by the 5-second rule:
Some bacteria are not harmful. But others can torture you with miserable stuff like diarrhea. Even if there's no visible dirt on your food, you can still get sick. You just can't tell what kinds of bacteria may be lurking on the floor.
So what are you to do with the piece of watermelon that just slipped from your grip? The safest choice is to throw it out. Or let the dog have it. (And there's another thing to consider — even the 5-second rule can't get around the fact that your food may have landed right in a spot where Fido parked his butt.)
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.|
|Hand Washing Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don't wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Why Should I Care About Germs? Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|Cooking Tips and Resources Get some cooking basics in this article for teens, including tips on where to find recipes.|
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.