Breaking! The Five-Second Rule Is Not Actually Real Science

Originally posted on May 10. We may have accidentally revealed too much about our own grossness with this post. We don’t actually eat food off our floor.

We’ve been living by the five-second rule since we were tiny and we’re willing to bet that you do as well. You know the drill: you drop a piece of food on the floor or counter and scoop it up and pop it in your mouth at the speed of light. “Five-second rule”, you state authoritatively. Obviously, the five-second rule doesn’t apply to, say, a donut dropped on the T, but it holds true for a non-sticky morsel dropped on your living room floor. Right?

Wrong, say researchers at Clemson University and eminent food scientist Harold McGee. In an article from yesterday’s New York Times, McGee reveals that five seconds is more than enough for your dropped food to get contaminated with yucky bacteria like E.coli or salmonella. McGee suggests “the five-second rule, version 2.0”: pick up the food and take five seconds to think about whether it’s worth eating. We think that sounds like a lot less fun.

It’s also little sad that one of our last childhood beliefs has been proven false. What next? Will we learn that chanting “circle, circle, dot, dot, now I’ve got my cootie shot” and counting to ten (but skipping the number eight, which, as anyone can tell you, is the “cootie number”) is not an effective vaccine against the most dreaded disease of our elementary school years?

The Five-Second Rule Explored, or How Dirty Is That Bologna? [New York Times]


Breaking! The Five-Second Rule Is Not Actually Real Science