Does the Five-Second Rule Hold Up?

Playground wisdom is usually flawed. Case in point: The five second rule is not always accurate.


Playground wisdom is usually flawed. For instance, swallowed chewing gum does not (repeat, does not) stay in your body for seven years—a It’s Not A Stupid Question post for another day. But some facts shared around the monkey bars actually have merit. Case in point: It’s generally safe to eat food that’s been on the ground for just a few seconds.

The real issue, according to a study at Aston University in Britain, is how much bacteria is on the surface where you fumble your Fritos.

Luckily, “most surfaces do not have pathogenic bacteria,” explains Paul Dawson, professor of food, nutrition and packaging sciences at Clemson University. So your chances of getting sick after eating floor food are low, but the odds are impacted by the type of food and the surface it’s dropped on. Moist foods like sticky candy attract bacteria best, while carpet is least likely to pass on germs.

Your seventh grade pals got this one right. Hopefully, however, you’ve retired some of their other tips by now.

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