We’ve all used the 5 Second Rule at least once in our lives. Whether it was when we knocked our friend’s cookie out of their hands and grabbed the fallen food like savage raccoons, or when we accidentally dropped an expensive morsel of filet mignon and stingily stuffed it back into our mouths- we did it all in the name of the 5 Second Rule, the holy doctrine that states: food picked up from the ground within five seconds of dropping is safe to consume.
Unfortunately, the 5 Second Rule has been rendered moot by science. Yes, intellectuals have actually performed multiple experiments testing this childish yet popular belief. Dr. Ronald Cutler, a microbiologist from the University of London, was particularly conclusive in his methodology. His trial involved dropping food (pizza, apples, buttered toast, etc.) onto surfaces contaminated with E. Coli, a common bacterium. Whether the food was picked up immediately, five seconds, or 10 seconds later, he concluded that all the samples were heavily contaminated.
So yes, within milliseconds, thousands of nasty bacteria, could be wriggling inside your spilled guacamole. Of course, the longer you wait to pick up the food, the more bacteria will enter the food- but does it really matter whether you have a million or a couple million? Five seconds may feel short to us, but it is a millennium for an eager pathogen. This is not to say that each time you make the ignorant choice to pick up and consume a piece of dropped food that you’ll get sick. However, keep in mind, a couple million people in the United States each year suffer from a food related illness, of which around 50,000 require hospitalization and several hundred find their way to the grave.
Next time you drop your french fry and are contemplating whether to save it or not, mark my words: leave it. Your body will thank you for taking the preventive measures. Despite the emotional stress of leaving a delicious piece of food on the ground, it’s better than suffering through a war against microorganisms you inadvertently put into your body. Unless, of course, the food truly is “to die for.”