what is the five second rule

You lean over to grab a cookie, but miss. It tumbles and lands on the floor, just before you have a chance to scoop it up.

Five-second rule — you can still eat it if it’s only on the ground for a second or two. Right?

You may follow the 5-second rule without considering the potential health hazards. How accurate is this rule — and can you really eat that cookie once it’s been on the ground?

RELATED: Myths and Facts About Healthy Eating

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What Is the “5-Second Rule?”

According to the unofficial “5-second rule,” when an item of food falls to the ground, for about the first 5 seconds, it’s safe to pick up and eat. After five seconds, the food is dirty, and you should throw it away.

Bacteria and other organisms that live on the floors of kitchens and dining rooms are not visible to the naked eye, so it is easy to believe your dropped cookie is still clean and safe to eat.

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The 5-second rule implies that it takes time for those germs to move from the floor to the cookie, giving you a short window to retrieve your food.

So, Is the 5-Second Rule Real?

The answer is — sort of.

Several studies have been conducted to determine whether the 5-second rule is true. The consensus: Food left on the ground for longer periods of time does collect more bacteria. The longer your food is on the floor, the dirtier it becomes.

However, as soon as food touches the ground, it is likely instantly contaminated with the bacteria it contacts. So, once your food touches the ground, it is, in fact, tainted by bacteria.

Can You Eat Food That’s Been on the Ground?

The instant food falls on the ground it immediately becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The number of germs and bacteria that attach to the food does depend on both the type of food and surface you drop it on. For example, if you drop food that is moist or sticky on any surface, it may gather more than dry food. Hardwood floors are also more likely to transfer bacteria to any type of food.

Carpet and other similar surfaces absorb more bacteria so less attaches to the piece of food, but this still does not make it safe to eat.

So the next time you drop a piece of food on the ground, no matter how delicious, instead of counting to five, take the safe route and throw it away.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.