The 5 Second Rule Tested

A pair of biology seniors at Connecticut College decided to test the oft-cited maxim that food that sits less than five seconds on a floor remains safe to eat.

They used a well-traveled section of the college cafeteria; apple slices “because they were free,” and Skittles, because there’s an assumption that dry food is less susceptible to contamination, said researcher Molly Goettsche.

To simulate the real world, food was dropped off the edge of a cafeteria table. One pair of edibles sat on the floor for five seconds; others for 10, 30, 60 seconds; and, finally, for five minutes. They repeated the experiment under the supervision of a biology professor.

The results: No bacteria were found on any food left on the floor for up to half a minute. Apple slices and Skittles both got germy after a minute (although one Skittle took five minutes).


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5 Responses to The 5 Second Rule Tested

  1. Doug says:

    I always go with the ten second rule. Five is barely time to bend down and get it. Also, at my house with two labs, you have to have follow the dog clause. If it is on the floor for less than 10 seconds and you don’t pick it up but the dog gets it…the dog gets to keep it.

  2. Dan says:

    A similar story appeared in WSJ on this very experiment about two weeks ago. The results were not so rosy. The experiment involved wood, tile and carpet. All the food involved picked up a certain small amount of salmonella and E.coli within 5 seconds. The seriousness of contamination depends upon the type of bacteria. I still abide by the five second rule because the article also pointed out that most countertops receive considerable amounts of contamination from sponges which are loaded with germs and bacteria.

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