Can You Eat Food 5 Seconds After it Falls on the Floor?

Where Did the Myth Come From?

You often hear people say it as they scoop some food they’ve just dropped up off the floor before popping it in their mouths. It’s not entirely clear where the “rule” comes from, but it’s so firmly entrenched in folklore that many believe it’s a fact.

What’s the Truth?

Studies have shown that bacteria and viruses can contaminate food more or less instantaneously when it’s dropped. There was no difference in rates of contamination before food left for one or six seconds. However, after one minute, contamination rates are about ten times higher. Most bugs cause no harm, but there are several nasty ones including norovirus, salmonella and C. difficile that can be tracked into the home on footwear and will quickly contaminate dropped food.

So, Should We Worry About it, Or Not?

The moisture levels and surface shape of the food have been found to affect how many bugs attach to it, as well as where it’s dropped – high traffic areas have more bacteria and viruses than others. In general though, it’s a judgement call whether you want to eat something after it’s been on the floor – just don’t assume that if you rush to pick it up in under five seconds, it’ll be safe.

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