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The ‘5 Second Rule’ Has Fallen


The long touted ‘5 Second Rule’ that has long been the belief of the food world has fallen. Eating foods off the floor is not safe no matter how quickly it is picked up.

Donald Schaffer, a Rutger’s University Extension Specialist, states, “the popular notion of the ‘five-second rule’ is that food dropped on the floor, but picked up quickly, is safe to eat because bacteria need time to transfer, but, bacteria can contaminate instantaneously.” Of course, the food type depends on how much bacteria can be transferred in this minuscule period of time with moist foods becoming contaminated the quickest.

Bacteria grows quickly and moisture is a key ingredient to bacteria growth. A bacteria cell can divide into two cells every twenty minutes. In a matter of 160 minutes, one single bacteria cell can become 256 bacteria cells. In 7 hours, one bacteria could multiply into over 2 million!

Cross contamination of food that is dropped onto the floor is inevitable. Food safety considers throwing away the food as the best practice to prevent illness. The ‘5 Second Rule’ is a false belief and we must engage in safe practices. If you drop it on the floor, you have no way of knowing what type of bacteria are picked up on the food. The best practice is to throw it away.