WHAT OTHERS SAY: Mom was right: The 'five-second' rule does apply

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 | 11:49 a.m. CDT; updated 7:01 a.m. CDT, Thursday, May 22, 2014

The first scientific principle that babies encounter is gravity: Items pushed from high-chair trays fall gratifyingly to the floor. Even Republican babies accept this as scientific fact.

As babies grow into children, they can encounter one of gravity’s scientific corollaries: If you drop an item of food on the floor, it’s OK to pick it up and eat it as long as you do so within five seconds. Like evolution, the so-called “five-second rule” is not universally accepted, though finickiness is a bigger factor than politics or religion.

Now comes science to confirm the truth of the five-second rule. Joseph Stromberg, writing at, reports on several actual scientific studies that found that unless you’ve intentionally smeared the floor with bacteria, the potential risks of eating food that falls on it are minimal.

In the only peer-reviewed study of the five-second rule, floor surfaces that had deliberately been contaminated with salmonella virus were quickly contaminated; the longer it stayed on the floor, the worse it got. Other studies found most floors to be remarkably bacteria-free, so the five-second rule could apply.

Of course, after you pick up the food, you’ll want to blow on it first. No sense taking chances.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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