As you’ve probably seen (because this study is getting circulated everywhere), some scientists have put to rest the myth that food, if dropped on the floor and retrieved quickly, is still safe to eat. The ‘five second rule,’ it seems, has finally been disproven. But let’s be honest–how much food have you really been eating off the floor, and did you really need a study co-founded by Clorox (like this one was) to tell you it’s a bad idea?
Apparently so, because 65% of people say they totally do this. And really, we’ve all been there. It’s the last apple slice, and you’re still pretty hungry, and probably it’ll be fine, right? You try to remember the last time you mopped–or, if you’re at work, which days the cleaning crew comes. You rationalize it. Maybe you even wash the food off. But deep down, you know it’s gross–probably because you’ve seen at least a dozen studies telling you that food that’s been on the floor for even two seconds is crawling with germs and bacterial.
Because, the ‘five second rule’ is, it seems, something that scientists just love to disprove. The body of work around it is pretty thorough–and it all tells the same story. Which is that food on the floor is food that should probably not go into your piehole, because it is varying degrees of contaminated.
Here are just a few previous studies which have examined the ‘five second rule.’
- This one, from 2007 by researchers at Clemson University, found that Salmonella can live on a dry surface (like your uncleaned kitchen counter or floor) for up to four weeks–and that food dropped onto that surface picks it up almost immediately.
- A 2003 study from the University of Illinois also found that even clean-ish surfaces transfer bacteria quickly, though those bacteria are less likely to be harmful. Still, these bugs move pretty fast.
- This one, from May of this year (and also, interestingly enough, co-founded by another household cleaning company), found that very salty foods, or foods with a low water content, are less likely to pick up bacteria, making them somewhat more safe than others. But for the most part, the study found that food on the floor is food that’s covered in germs.
- And, of course, there’s this Mythbusters episode, which found that food picks up the same amount of bacteria between two seconds and six seconds, and echoed the findings that wetter foods are more likely to be tainted.
Of course, your own pretty clean apartment is less likely than, say, the ground at a grocery store to have very harmful germs, like e. Coli, staph, and other bugs that could really make you sick. But then, if you accidentally dripped some juice from a raw chicken last week and didn’t do a great job mopping it up, it could still have the power to transfer some bad bacteria to food you drop in the same spot.
Moral of the story? Your immune system is probably tough enough to handle a little bit of contamination every now and then, but for the most part, relying on the ‘five second rule’ isn’t a safe or smart idea. Remember what your mom told you: When in doubt, throw it out.
Image: Joe Belanger via Shutterstock