The 5-Second Rule: Is it Safe to Eat?

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We've all heard the old wives' tale that if food dropped on the ground or other surface is picked up within five seconds that it's safe to eat. If you have small kids who drop food on a regular basis and stuff it right into their little mouths, then a little reassurance goes a long way. But is the "5-second rule" really true? Believe it or not, several scientific experiments have studied the idea. In fact, a high school student tested the theory while completing an internship. She dropped cookies and gummi bears on rough and smooth sterile tile that had been coated with a measured amount of the bacteria E. coli. Within five seconds, germs were transferred from both surfaces to the food. Many people become familiar with the "rule" in the restaurant industry, where dropping a steak or piece of fish can affect the bottom line when thrown out.