Dropped Food: Why 5-Second Rule Does Not Work

You’re carrying your lunch or just an apple and suddenly…you drop it! What’s your first thought? Pick up the food that seems clean and pretend that everything is ok? Give up the idea! It is official: "5-second rule" doesn’t work!

Scientific Proof

A recent study carried out by scientists of Rutgers University in New Jersey revealed that bacteria can penetrate your food in less than a second, literally instantaneously! While organizing their experiment, the researchers intentionally contaminated various surfaces that can be found in everybody’s house with bacteria.

Contaminated Surfaces

The surfaces were:

  • wood,
  • stainless steel,
  • carpet,
  • ceramic tile.

Then the researcher dropped four food types on each surface type.

Dropped Foods

Alas! 5-second rule has been proven wrong!

The foods were:

  • bread and butter,
  • watermelon,
  • candy,
  • just bread.

On-the Floor Time

Then the researchers allowed the food to sit on the surfaces for four different periods of time:

  • under a second,
  • 5 sec,
  • 30 sec,
  • 5 min.

The results were quite predictable, though – the longer the food sat on the surface, the more bacteria transferred to it. But the fact of major importance is that in some cases it takes bacteria a little under a second to make dropped food their home sweet home.

Why so fast?

It takes bacteria the longest to contaminate the food dropped on a carpet.

Surprisingly enough, the most bacteria were found on the watermelon, while the candy picked up a relatively little amount. The scientists explained the phenomenon by the fact that the moisture level of a watermelon is the highest of all foods they experimented with. They stated that as bacteria evidently had no limbs they could use to walk with, the only possible way of moving from one surface to another for them was traveling with liquids. The carpet displayed the lowest rate of bacteria transfer to foods if compared to the other surfaces. 

Contamination Factors

The best rule for dropped foods is to not eat them at all

The general conclusion the researches have come to is the following: the chances of falling ill after eating the food that has been dropped on the floor depend on several factors. They include:

  • concentration of bacteria on the surface,
  • your body’s endurance,
  • the natures of both the dropped food and the surface,
  • and the time period during which the food is in contact with the surface. 

Now that you know almost everything about the dropped food, act responsibly while dealing with it! Or, better yet, don’t deal with it at all.



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