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The Five-second Safety Health Rule

The Five-second Safety Health Rule

Posted on March 21 2017

I hope all of my wonderful friends and customers have had a wonderful 2017 thus far. I hope that you all are enjoying Peace, Prosperity and Profoundly Good Health.

I wanted to relay a story about something that happened over the holiday season, a few months back. While visiting family over Christmas, amid all the hustle and bustle, I noticed that Melissa, a friend’s young daughter, dropped a piece of candy on the floor, after which, she picked it up and popped it into her mouth. When I softly suggested to her that it would be best to discard it for a fresh piece, she said she had been taught the five-second rule, which is that any food dropped on the floor is OK to eat if you pick it up within five seconds.

So, in order to educate 10-year old Melissa—as well as this 82-year old—we researched the five-second Rule together on her iPad. It turns out that it has actually been scientifically tested.

In a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers dropped pieces of watermelon, bread, buttered bread, and gummy candy onto four surfaces—stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and carpet—that were contaminated with bacteria. They allowed the food to remain on the surfaces for four time periods—less than 1 second, 5 seconds, 30 seconds, and 300 seconds. They performed each test 20 times.

The Study’s Results

Watermelon became the most contaminated (it’s so moist) at each time interval, while the candy was the least. The lowest contamination came from the carpet.

The longer food remained on a surface, the more contaminated it became, BUT the nature of the food and the surface it lies on are of equal or greater importance. Some transfer of bacteria to food happens immediately, at times less than one second. Therefore, the five-second rule has been essentially disproved.


Because Melissa dropped the candy on a carpet and retrieved it immediately, she was most likely in little danger of becoming sick from it. But it depends on what you drop and where. Picking up a piece of candy or cracker from a just-cleaned dry kitchen floor versus the floor near your dog’s cozy resting place makes a big difference. But it’s not easy to judge just how clean a floor is, especially in someone else’s home, so I wouldn’t make eating off it a habit.

And, if food of any kind stays in contact with a surface that could contain bacteria for more than a second or two, it’s really best to discard it.

Another thing: If you’re in poor health or susceptible otherwise, I strongly suggest you follow the “zero-second” rule. In other words, don’t do it at all, and, remember, kitchen counters can be even more contaminated than the floor.

Final word: Let common sense prevail.

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