Germ attack! Everything you need to know about the ‘five-second rule’

While some actually choose to believe and follow it, others think of it as an amusing notion, albeit a stupid one.

You have been eyeing that last slice of pizza eagerly. You want it, you are ready to gorge on it. But just when you are about to dig in, it slips from your hand drops flat on the floor. Now, would you pick up and eat it nonetheless, or leave it be, because it is too gross a thing to do? The dilemma is real.

This is when the ‘five-second rule’ comes into play. The to-eat-or-not-to-eat decision is usually taken care of by this notorious urban folklore, wherein it is believed that humans have a certain understanding with the bacteria colony on a five-second window when it comes to contamination of the spilled food.

While some actually choose to believe and follow it, others think of it as an amusing notion, albeit a stupid one. Researchers have found that no matter how quickly you pick up the food, you’re still going to pick up bacteria along with it, even if it has been on the ground for less than five seconds.

The origin of the rule

While the origin of this rule is not really known, it is believed that it may have come from the Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan, who would allegedly let food sit on the floor, based on the belief that anything prepared for him would always be good enough to eat.

Researches done 

According to a study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, no fallen food can completely evade a contamination. But it also didn’t find more bacteria on a food that was left on the floor for a longer time period.

Experts say that the time period does not play as much of a role as the type of floor, and the composition of the food. For instance, carpeted floors are likely to have fewer bacteria than floors made of tile and stainless steel.

The risks associated 

Studies show that when you eat food off the ground, you expose yourself to bacteria such as e coli and salmonella. Both these bacteria are known to cause unpleasant side effects and diseases that could turn deadly. It is, therefore, advisable that whenever you drop your food, you use your discretion and not rely on the five-second rule.


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