Myths and facts about the five-second rule


We all have that one friend or family member who loves testing the five-second rule. For me, it’s my daughter and that’s my own fault.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…tap…tap…tap. Cheerios almost made the same noise hitting the tray of her high chair as they did hitting floor.

“Five-second rule,” I declared to the chubby 18-month-old staring at me.

Frequently, eating the discarded cereal just seemed quicker and less wasteful than fetching the broom or vacuum cleaner for a few fallen Cheerios. And everyone knows the five-second rule is foolproof, right?

Maybe, not so much.


  • If you pick food up off the floor within five seconds you don’t have to worry about food borne illness.
  • All foods are affected the same in five seconds.
  • All surfaces contaminate food at the same speed.


  • Depending on the circumstances, bacteria can contaminate dropped food in less than a second.
  • Foods with higher moisture content — fruits and vegetables, for example — are contaminated the quickest and easiest because bacteria are drawn to moisture.
  • Smooth surfaces, such as tile and stainless steel, are more susceptible than carpet in allowing bacteria to transfer to foods.
  • The longer food is in contact with the floor, the more likely it is to become contaminated.

Now that you have the facts, you may want to rethink relying on the five-second rule. I’ll probably keep taking my chances at home and I’m certain Tater will probably do the same. Our floors are clean enough to eat off of…

Obviously, we’re trading in the five-second rule for a cliche that hasn’t been debunked.

Source: Ohio State University Extension, Chow Line, Study: It’s best not to test five-second rule


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