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Why the 5 second rule is not so safe according to science



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It's mid-afternoon at work, and you've decided to have a piece of those leftover Halloween sweets at your desk You unwrap the sweets, lift them into your mouth … and they slide between your fingers on the carpet.

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As long as you pack the sweets in less than five seconds, it's absolutely safe The five-second rule is as long as most people can remember it, and if you refer to it regularly, you are not alone, but this rule is not even clearly defined, in fact there are so many variations the rule (10 seconds, 15 seconds, etc.) that their validity probably had to be questioned long ago.

Is the five-second rule true?

This may not be you ht but surprise The five-second rule is an old wife, nothing more According to Paul Dawson, PhD and Brian Sheldon, PhD, food scientists and authors of Have you just eaten that? . "This is conclusive evidence that bacteria are transmitted immediately upon contact with contaminated surfaces," they write. The food scientists compare after the five-second rule with driving without safety belt: You may be okay, but you always take a huge risk.

In 2006, Dawson published the first peer-reviewed study on the five-star study. Second Rule: Investigate whether the length of time that a food touches a contaminated surface affects the transmission of bacteria to the food. The scientists tested the rule by contaminating three different surfaces – tiles, carpet and wood – with salmonella, depositing food (especially bolognese and bread) on each surface and the amount of bacteria within five, 30 or 60 seconds.

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"Our results have pretty much broken the myth of the five-second rule," they write. "We found that bacteria were transferred to Bologna after only five seconds of contact indicating that they may not be safe to eat." The longer food is on the ground, the more bacteria are transmitted, which is why some people justify the five-second rule. However, as some bacteria are transmitted immediately, the rule is still completely refuted.

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To further anger you: Dawson's experiment also found that salmonella had been left on the contaminated tile surface for a month – although there were no visual signs , "Bacteria that are capable of forming spores are known to survive their dormant spore form," explain the authors.

For your information, this is not the only research that exposes the five-second rule. Similar results were found in a second peer review study by Rutgers University in 2016, although their experiment included a wider selection of foods – watermelon cubes, plain bread, butter bread, and gummy bears – on various surfaces. Because bacteria move quickly through moisture, the watermelon absorbs most of the bacteria.

Where did the five-second rule come from?

As with many old women, it is not entirely clear where the five-second rule stands, but various cultural moments could have helped to perpetuate it. Early beliefs about eating from the ground can be traced back to the "Khan Rule," a practice that, according to Dawson and Sheldon, is held under the Mongolian leader Genghis Khan. Khan allegedly left food that fell on the floor as long as he wished – whether five hours or more than a day – with the notion that every meal prepared for the ruler was inherently good enough to eat ,

While Khan probably had no understanding of microorganisms, the idea that food was okay when it looked clean was still in pop culture. Fans of culinary icon Julia Child once claimed that the chef dropped a turkey on the floor during their cooking show and picked it up. While later acknowledging that she was actually dropping a potato pancake onto the hob, many still believed that she saw raw meat fall to the ground and continue to cook, possibly adding more fuel to the urban myth.


The bottom line: The five-second rule is a rough simplification of the transmission of bacteria to food. There are many more factors than just how long foods are on a surface – for example, the type of food, whether it's carpet or tile, and how this surface is contaminated. And since you never know how "dirty" the soil really is is that candy you've dropped worth the risk?


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