For Your Health

5 Second Rule 86'd?

Chad W. Lutz
We’ve all been there: you finally have your hands on that one treat you’ve been hankering for the entire day and the moment you bring it to your lips, the whole thing slips out of your hand and crashes unsympathetically to the floor. You look around for a moment, conscious of the seconds as they tick by…one, two, three, four. Your conscience seems to battle for a moment, debating whether or not to pick up the soiled piece of food and eat it, even though it’s no doubt covered in a fresh pile of your dog’s shedding hair. (To eat or not to eat?)

Ever since it’s inception, the Five Second Rule has been the culinary rule-of-thumb when it comes to, “you think I should still eat that?” If it’s been on the floor less than five seconds, it’s fair game. But a Food Scientist at South Carolina’s Clemson University recently put that theory to the test to see if that last chocolate morsel that rolled of the top of your double-chocolate fudge brownie cupcake is really worth it.

Paul Dawson, a specialist in food safety/quality research simulated the situation we’ve all found our taste buds on the cruel end of by lacing tile pieces of different floor surfaces with the food-borne bacteria Salmonella. Then Dawson and his team of researchers dropped articles of food on the tiles and waited the theoretical five seconds before running bioassay (series of lab tests) to assess the levels of bacteria found in the food after just five seconds of being on the ground.

“I think you’re taking your chances,” he said in a recent interview with’s Randi Kaye, as he explained how “high levels of bacteria” were found on food even if it had only been on the ground for a few seconds. Even when using the Five Second Rule, black lights still revealed a large number of bacteria transferred from the tiles to the food. In his own way of saying do what you want he did say, however, that, “some people go their entire lives not wearing their seatbelts and never have problem.” (Comforting).