Health e-Hints™

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Is it safe to eat food that has dropped on the floor?

Q: Whenever my son drops food on the floor, he wants to eat it. I discourage him from doing so, but he invokes the "5-second rule" and says that food is safe to eat if you pick it up 5 seconds or less after it has hit the floor. Is that true?


A: Research has proved that the 5-second rule is wrong. Bacteria can attach to food even if it's picked up very fast. So it's not a good idea to eat food that has hit the floor.

While floors that look dirty are obvious hazards, floors that appear clean can even house bacteria. Some germs can survive on floors for a long time. And without a powerful microscope, it's impossible to determine how many germs are there.

Bacteria can attach to food as soon as it hits the floor. That means that food left on the floor even just for an instant can become contaminated. And foods with wet surfaces, like an apple slice, can pick up bacteria more easily. The longer food is on the floor, the more bacteria will accumulate.

Some bacteria are not harmful. But others can make a person sick and even cause diarrhea. You can't see the bacteria and even if you could, it doesn't take many to make you sick.

So what are you to do with that delicious piece of whatever that just slipped from your grasp? The safest choice is to throw it out.