Five-Second Rule for Dropped Food Debunked by Researchers

September 11th, 2016

Food waste is bad, but if you drop it on the floor, do not eat it anyway.

While we’ve all heard the “five-second rule” repeated as if it’s scientific fact, it may be safer to have a zer0-second rule! Recently, researchers at Rutgers set out to determine if it’s safe to eat dropped food that’s picked up within five seconds.

Photo from flickr internets_dairy

Photo by flickr internets_dairy

It’s Complicated: Surface, Moisture and Time all Matter

If there’s any truth to the five-second rule, it’s that the longer the food is left on the contact surface, the greater the bacteria transfer. However, scientists call the five-second rule a “significant oversimplification” of what occurs when bacteria transfers from a surface to food.

Bacteria Transfer Can Happen in an Instant

Researchers found that while type of surface, moisture and contact time all contribute to contamination of food dropped on surfaces, bacteria can transfer to dropped food “instantaneously.”

Researchers noted that it’s possible for bacteria to begin its transfer to food in less than one second! So, unless you’re some type of superhero, don’t take the chance!

Photo bt flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Photo by flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Where to Find the Research on the Five-Second Rule

Read the published research at Applied and Environmental Microbiology: “Longer Contact Times Increase Cross-Contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from Surfaces to Food.” Or read the press release: Rutgers Researchers Debunk ‘Five-Second Rule’: Eating Food off the Floor Isn’t Safe.”

Hungry for Food not Dropped on the Floor? Consider a meatless tomato and hummus sandwich. Or feast on creole red bean soup with shrimp.

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