Fact or fable? Here’s what a doctor has to say about the five-second rule

five-second rule

Can you eat food that’s been dropped on the ground if you pick it up within five seconds?

We’ve all accidentally dropped food on the ground before. How we proceed from there differs per person, though. Do you eat the food in question or do you throw it in the trash immediately? Many people apply the five-second rule, which means you can eat the food as long as it hasn’t been on the ground for longer than five seconds. But is this wise?

Do you throw food that’s been dropped on the ground in the trash right away?

Five-second rule

There are tons of food myths out there. One moment, carbohydrates are bad for you and the next you should be avoiding fats altogether. We can’t keep up. Luckily, we’ve gotten things cleared up about one thing: the five-second rule. Unfortunately, the five-second rule is a myth. No matter how quickly you pick up your food from the ground, there will always be bacteria on it.


People who aren’t too afraid of germs (and really still want to eat that piece of chocolate that’s fallen on the floor) apply the five-second rule all the time. We don’t know where this rule has come from. However, we do now know it’s not true at all. That’s what Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD and medical editor of WebMD, told Reader’s Digest: “Eating food that’s fallen to the ground does come with a risk of taking in bacteria known to cause food poisoning. Research shows food will instantaneously pick up bacteria from the surface it lands on.” What kind of bacteria are we talking about then? Well, E.coli and salmonella are among them. Yikes.

Go to the next page to find out how harmful it really is to eat food that’s been dropped on the ground!

Page 1 of 2