5-Second Rule: Should You Still Eat Your Food After It Fell on the Floor?

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spilled spaghetti

Eating your favourite food is always comforting. You want to enjoy every piece of it. When you drop a piece on the floor, particularly the last one, it somehow breaks your heart a little. It’s tempting to pick up the fallen piece and eat it, especially if it has been on the floor for no longer than five seconds.

You may have heard of the “five-second rule”, which says it’s acceptable to eat dropped food within five seconds. The rule emphasises that bacteria has no time to attach to the food during that period.

But is it really worth it to eat that piece of cookie or chocolate you’ve just rescued from the ground?

The Floor is a Breeding Ground for Bacteria

Unless you obtain quality carpet or floor cleaning services, eating food off the ground can be a health hazard. In every square inch of carpet, for instance, about 200,000 bacteria are present, which is almost 700 times more than on your toilet seat.

The common bacteria present on carpets include:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) – they generally live in the intestines of healthy people. Most of their varieties are harmless, but a few strains, like Ecolab 0157: H7, can cause serious abdominal cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
  • Salmonella – this is a group of bacteria, including more than 2,500 different strains. After having contact with salmonella, the bacteria can spread from your hand to your mouth and then they will multiply in your intestines.
  • Staphylococcus – this group of bacteria can spread on objects, including clothing, towels and door handles. They can also spread from person to person.

Dirty floors increases your risk of acquiring these bacteria. Exposure to them can cause serious health complications, especially to young children and older adults with the weak immune system.

Health Problems Associated with Dirty Floors

Texture of dirty tile

The presence of bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella and staph, in your home makes you prone to a variety of diseases. Exposure to E. coli, for instance, may lead to the development of haemolytic uraemic syndrome, a severe form of kidney failure, which likely affects young children and older adults.

When it comes to salmonella, illnesses vary based on the strain. Salmonella typhi (S.typhi), for instance, can cause typhoid fever, a serious disease that requires antibiotic treatment. Otherwise, it can be life-threatening. Salmonella paratyphi (S. paratyphi) is another type of salmonella, which can cause paratyphoid fever. It has milder symptoms compared to typhoid fever.

If you had contact with staph, meanwhile, you may experience infections like:

  • Skin infections
  • Bacteraemia
  • Bone infections
  • Food poisoning
  • Pneumonia
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Proper hygiene is vital in preventing these diseases. Make it a habit to wash your hands properly, particularly after going to the toilet, to prevent spreading the bacteria. Always keep your floors and carpets clean, so bacteria won’t build up.

Keep Your Floors Clean

It pays to understand the types of bacteria that could be on your floor. This could give you second thoughts about eating dropped food, even for less than five seconds. When you throw that bit of chocolate or cake that’s fallen, you prevent exposing yourself to bad bacteria and lower your risk of developing serious health problems.

Other than throwing food in the bin, you’ll need to make sure your floors get the professional cleaning they need. Carpeted floors, especially, require proper equipment and skilled people. These ensure the removal of harmful bacteria, preventing a host of health problems.


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