Is the 5 Second Rule Real? NASA Puts it To the Test

According to one survey, 50% of men and 70% of women use the 5 second rule to determine whether or not it’s safe to eat something that has just fallen on the ground. Now, we’re sure you realize that there’s no scientific validity to having exactly 5 seconds to get your food off the ground before it’s spoiled, but is there truth to the general idea? Is it safe to eat food that has fallen on the ground, if only for a short time, or will it already be crawling in bacteria by the time we pick it up?

Well, NASA luckily has revealed the answer in this Science Channel video. And the answer is… It depends. As the video points out, bacteria moves slower than a snail, so while there are millions of bacteria surrounding us at any given moment, only a few of them would be able to immediately move onto our food the second it has fallen on the ground. It can be even less depending on what kind of surface you’re dropping your food onto, thanks to surface tension.

However, though this video proves the general safety of most everyday situations, you shouldn’t go testing this out. For instance, it only takes a couple of strains of salmonella for you to get sick, so if you’re dropping raw chicken on the floor and then dropping your cookies in the same place, you can just go ahead and toss them in the garbage. Of course, as the video states, salmonella and other dangerous bacteria prefer wet environments, so if you’re dropping dry food onto dry surfaces, your chances are pretty damn good. As for other more common bacteria, as long as you don’t mind the mental image of eating fecal bacteria (which can often be found on the bottom of shoes), you’re good to go health wise.