Debunking the Myth of the ‘Five Second Rule’ [POLL]

Five Second Rule

Sixty-five percent of American families implement the ‘five second rule,’ the belief that if food dropped on the floor is picked up within five seconds, germs don’t touch it. (Photo courtesy mek22/Flickr)


My wife  always told me that I’m a bit of a spermatophobe (Spermatophobia  is the phobia of germs, not sperm.) I readily agree. There are some things I just won’t do, no matter how silly she thinks I am. But now there is a scientific study that backs me up!

After my wife and I first got married, we went shopping a lot together, something we both enjoyed since we’re both foodies. In many stores, like our local Whole Foods or Kroger, there would be sample platters of cheese, fruit, chips, or other goods just open for people to reach out and take one.

Heather reached out and took a sample and popped it in her mouth. Eww! Repulsed, I refused to take one when she offered it to me. “Do you know whose hands have been in there? You don’t have any idea how clean other people are, or if they’re sick or not,” I exclaimed. It was a visceral reaction for me, almost as if she had picked the apple off the tree in the Garden of Eden and was offering it to me to chow down on. No thank you!

Then one day we were cooking in the kitchen and she dropped a strawberry on the floor. She bent over, picked it up and popped it in her mouth. Again, I stood staring, my mouth gaping open. “What? Five second rule,” she said, grinning.

“Do you know how many germs are on the floor?” I was incredulous that she would even think to eat something that had fallen on the floor. At least she could have rinsed it off first!

“I just cleaned the floor,” she said.

It didn’t matter to me. We walk on the floor, tracking dirt and grime into the house. Pets roamed the house, and who knew what they brought in on their feet. There were a million reasons I could think of NOT to eat something off the floor, and she thought I was being a little dramatic.

Now, however, I seem to have a team of researchers backing up my thought process. According to CBS News, Clorox co-funded a research study at San Diego State University which discovered that the countertop is the dirtiest surface in the house, followed closely by carpet and tile floors. When researchers left baby carrots on different surfaces, germs affixed themselves to the vegetables within five seconds. And yet, a different study showed that 65 percent of families implement the five second rule in their homes.

My wife constantly tells me that since she grew up with a big family, it was survival of the fittest in her house and she was always hungry, so she seized whatever food she could. Perhaps that’s true. But now there’s just the two of us and I feel justified in trying to persuade her to follow my lead and step away from the crumbs. If something hits the floor, it’s toast. Step away from the germs.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

3 Responses to Debunking the Myth of the ‘Five Second Rule’ [POLL]

  1. Pingback: The Five Second Rule – Fact or Fiction? [POLL]

  2. Pingback: The Five Second Rule – Fact or Fiction? [POLL] | Kicker 102.5

  3. Owen says:

    Interesting thoughtts

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