Scott Hanselman

The Five Second Rule - Does it Apply Internationally?

October 15, '07 Comments [141] Posted in Musings
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SkittlesFiveSecondRule There's a good article in the Washington Post from July that was on a repeat on the Radio this morning about the Five Second Rule. There's even some research on it and a WikiWorld comic.

"The five-second rule. If you've never heard of it, ask any sixth-grader. "It means that if you drop something on the ground, you can still eat it if you pick it up in five seconds," says Kiara Hopkins, 11."

I'm not sure when this started, but I've always known this. I think my two-year-old knows this, although it may be the five-day-rule for him. 

"It's not just for children: In a 2003 survey conducted at the University of Illinois, 70 percent of women and 56 percent of men had knowledge of the rule."

I'm shocked it's not 100%. There's also the interesting "Line of Sight Corollary to the Five Second Rule" which allows you to extend the Five Second Rule as long as you held the dropped object in your line of sight the entire time. "Who knows what could have happened while I wasn't looking?"

Additionally, things like M&Ms and Skittles candies have a hard-shell or 'armor' that allow for an more liberal interpretation of the Rule. Wet things, on the other hand, like cake or fruit, might only be allowed two seconds, or none at all.

Because I have a fairly international (non-US) bunch of readers here, I'd like to ask you:

  • Dear International Reader, is the Five Second Rule a global (read: all humans) phenomenon? Does it cross cultures?
  • More interestingly, what do you call it in your native language?

Discuss.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, October 15, 2007 9:38:08 PM UTC
THANKS FOR THE ADVERTISING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jack hanselman
Monday, October 15, 2007 9:46:17 PM UTC
I was almost tackled by a local while attempting to apply the 5-second rule at a hotel in Ukraine with a strawberry and was assured that the rule most definitely did not apply on that floor.
Monday, October 15, 2007 9:56:03 PM UTC
Hi Scott

In Denmark the rule is called exactly the same (just in danish though :).

We've even had some comedians, that posed as professors, claim to have invented a "drop your food on the floor and eat it at any time dilation device". I can be installed in a standard kitchen and will scan the room with for food being dropped, with a laser, and immediately create a time-dilation field around the food. The duration of the field is configurable according to the manual ;-)

Hilarious.

Cheers
/Henrik
Henrik Laursen
Monday, October 15, 2007 9:57:47 PM UTC
Australia has the same rule. We are a pretty relaxed bunch however, so the rule is often extended up to 30 seconds, with no LOS limtations.
Adrian
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:05:56 PM UTC
I'm from Italy, but it's the first time I hear about it.
In Italy it should read: "La regola dei 5 secondi"...
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:19:36 PM UTC
I'm from Portugal and I had never heard that before.
Gustavo Guerra
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:20:39 PM UTC
I´m from Brazil.

In my country we don´t have a "time limit". We only say "I picked it up so fast that the bacteria didn´t climbed the food" or something like that. :)

Paulo
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:44:54 PM UTC
I'm from Croatia and I've never heard about this rule.

We teach our children to never eat what fell on a floor, but as soon as the poor child turns away we pick the food and eat it.
Hrvoje
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:48:13 PM UTC
French Canadian, and never heard of this before.
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:52:50 PM UTC
The 5-second rule exists in New Zealand as well, although I've never heard of the LOS restriction.
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:03:41 PM UTC
We don't have this rule in the Netherlands, nor do most people eat stuff that fell on the floor.
Enieh
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:06:56 PM UTC
I'm from Ireland, and I'm afraid I've never heard of any rule like that....
(we don't eat stuff off the floor much) :P
cheeves
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:21:12 PM UTC
In Denmark there is no such thing as a five second rule - or so I thought until I read comment number 3 (also from Denmark).

First time I heard about this utterly stupid rule was in a Mythbusters episode.

But there is a 60 minute rule – if you spill a beer it is ok to lick it up on any surface; but beware – after 60 minutes it might get infected with green mold microbes!
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:32:51 PM UTC
I've never heard of such rule in Russia.
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:35:55 PM UTC
I have heard such rule in Japan at least heard of it on TV although I personally don't think it makes much difference whether it's 5 seconds or 10 seconds. It doesn't seem to be so common however as I never heard of it when I was a child.
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:45:10 PM UTC
The 5 second rule exists and is practiced in Ireland!!
Monday, October 15, 2007 11:48:54 PM UTC
Hrvoje - now that's funny!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:29:13 AM UTC
There was a <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/richard-glover/some-rules-worth-preserving/2007/08/24/1187462509803.html" title'"richard glover smh">newspaper article</a> about the 5 second rule here in Australia a couple of months back. Though it was suggested men are more likely to adopt the rule than women.
Mike
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:42:09 AM UTC
I remember back at school in Australia it would vary from 3-10 seconds depending on how yummy the food was, and that grass was always considered a vitamin source
Matt
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:50:04 AM UTC
In Australia I've always known it as the three second rule. Same deal though.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:09:36 AM UTC
I'm from Brazil. Usually you'll see kids saying "what doesn't kill you gets you fatter" before eating things that have fallen on the ground. I've never seen people calling it the five second rule.
MauricioC
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:13:58 AM UTC
When I was a kid, it was the 3 second rule here in Oregon (you are than me, so either things became more desparate or cleaner). A corollary was, "You've got to eat a pound of dirt before you die."

I clearly remember sitting at a road side eatery when I was about 7 with my 4 brothers. One of us dropped our burger on the ground, and my mom commanded, "Pick it up and eat it...it's good for you!"

I think if you have 5 boys, you make up a lot of things.
Andy
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:20:24 AM UTC
Mythbusters did a show on the 5-second rule and busted it:

http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2005/10/mythbusters_chinese_invasion_a.html

Here's another interesting article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09curi.html?ex=1336363200&en=241e6e22e405bc24&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
Tom
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:35:28 AM UTC
I already heard this since I was sixth grader too. It seems to known by almost all urban teen-agers here in Thailand. It's also called "5-seconds rules"
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:42:36 AM UTC
I've always lived by the 5-second rule here in Perth, Western Australia. As I got older though it somehow seems to have become the 30-minute rule. My kids eat pretty much anything (food on the floor, furniture, trees) and I'm pretty sure that is why they never get sick. Every germ they encounter hasn't got a chance against their iron constitutions
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:03:26 AM UTC
I am Indonesian, we also use the "5 seconds rule".
Edison
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:05:06 AM UTC
I'm British and have NEVER heard of this!

I wonder how this rules gets propogated? I never saw it on the too many hours I watched TV....

I agree with the Australians here.. it probably makes you stronger. I still wouldn't employ this in real life though
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:16:53 AM UTC
I beleive it was actually started by Ghengis Kahn; although, it was a 48 hour rule.

Coincidentally, it is beleived he died from food poisoning ;)
TraumaPony
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:17:41 AM UTC
In any given situation, its usually safe for ~4 minutes. Anything that has a waxy coating on a hard floor is good 'for a while'. Softer foods with spongy surfaces last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the food and the cleanliness of the ground. Gotta love high school bio 101. As for before the experiment, it just mattered how much we wanted to eat it, lol. ;)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:20:03 AM UTC
There is a similar rule in the Middle East with the addition that you need to blow air on the food before eating it. There is no strict timing, you just pickup the food ASAP.
Mariam
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:36:53 AM UTC
It's alive and well in Canada, though I have no idea why the Quebecois who posted above wouldn't have heard of it, except for their usual isolationist tendencies. :)
Jeremy Gray
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:39:36 AM UTC
in Mexico we don't have such rule, at least the region I'm from, we say "ya la lambio el diablo" (the devil has licked it") so we don't pick stuff up... a lot of people ignore it though, but they still say it
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:15:12 AM UTC
This rule exists in Israel, although here it is the "7-second rule".
Gil
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:55:59 AM UTC
I've never heared of this (Germany).
And anyway, our dog is faster.
Kai
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:56:51 AM UTC
The idea does exist in Ukraine (and Russia, I would strongly suspect). There is no set time limit, and the saying (loosely translated) goes like this: "If it was picked it up fast enough, it is not considered to have been dropped".
max
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:33:33 AM UTC

It's alive and well in Canada, though I have no idea why the Quebecois who posted above wouldn't have heard of it, except for their usual isolationist tendencies. :)


It's because the ground it falls onto is not ours yet! We can't make rules based on someone else's ground! q;-)

I bet the 5 second rule varies depending if it fell on your floor or someone else's... I know when I washed mine the last time.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:33:56 AM UTC
The same rule exists in Norway too. We also call it the 5-second-rule. The LOS-rule I've never heard about before tough.
Espen AJ
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:43:22 AM UTC
I've never heard of such a rule in Iran.
Bahador
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:46:21 AM UTC
I'm from India, and this is the first time I am hearing this rule... it's funny though because I think I have practiced it a lot... just not given it a formal name :)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:07:31 AM UTC
In Texas, which some people here consider it's own country, there are some additional rules. If it falls on a tumbleweed, you're good to go for a while. If it falls on a random "varmint", we call that a "bon bon".
Eswann
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:20:13 AM UTC
After reading the comments, it just seems this rule rule is mostly known in Western region. We don't have such a rule in Pakistan but I am sure people eat of the floor. It highly depeneds on what kind of food fell on what kind of floor and how much you paid for it. I am sure 5 sec rule don't apply to all floors and all food types.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:25:26 AM UTC
I am from Austria and I never heard of such a rule.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:54:13 AM UTC
There's also the 10 second rule in social golf - if you can run and get your ball and be back within 10 seconds you can tee off again.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:55:46 AM UTC

I've never heared of this (Germany).
And anyway, our dog is faster.


Hahaha
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:02:04 AM UTC
In China, we do not have this rule. But people often do that based on how "clean" is the floor and how is the possibility of cached by others.
Yue
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:06:21 AM UTC
I'm also from Germany and never heard of this rule until know. In German the name would translate to "Fünf Sekunden Regel".
Lars
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:06:49 AM UTC

I lived in different countries. "The devil has licked it" sounds familiar but I am not sure where.
Abdu
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:44:52 AM UTC
Funny rule. Never heard of this rule before in Belgium nor France.
What we teach kids sounds more like a 0 second rule though ;-)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:02:07 AM UTC
We don't have any rule like that one in Poland.
Konrad K
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:06:33 AM UTC
I'm also from Israel but i know it as the 3 seconds rule , maybe I have higher standards or maybe my floor is dirtier :)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:14:07 AM UTC
I am also from Israel. I have known it as either the 5 seconds rule or the 3 seconds rule. There is inconsistency on this
Amir Z
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:15:27 AM UTC
British here, and I've heard of the rule, and seen it practised - with toast, (buttered side down!!)...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:29:33 AM UTC
I am from Turkey and I never heard of such a rule.But i found it very meaningful :)
In turkish we would translate this rule to "5 saniye kuralı"..
Gokhan Demir
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:32:30 AM UTC
I'm Australian, and at my school (year 11). We know it as the ten second rule, and are allowed ten seconds to pick whatever we've dropped. Anything wet or sticky you just forget about, if its been on the ground its not edible.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:38:48 AM UTC
no such rule here in Spain, as far as I know...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:44:41 AM UTC
I'm from Romania and the rule here is called "Regula de 5 secunde ...". It's not that wide spread but there are quite a few children than know it ...
Pop Cataln
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:50:16 AM UTC
Some additional food rules (from the US):

From elementary school: if you swallow gum, it takes 7 years to pass through your system

From college: the glass with the most beer is mine.

Oh, and when Mom brings the dessert dish to the table, be the quickest to stick your finger in the biggest piece so you're sure to get it! Doesn't make Mom (or Dad) happy, but if you've got a couple brothers it's what you gotta do.
mikeb
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:56:34 AM UTC
There is such rule in Bulgaria (although it hasn't particular name) it's just the-rule-when-you-drop-something-on-the-floor-if-it-was-short-enough-you-can-eat-it :) A friend of mine even has scientific explanation of this rule. First wen you drop food on the floor microbes start running in panic (if the food can kill them falling on their heads). After a wile they return and attack the food :) I you're fast enough to pickup the food before they return you can still eat it :)
ivan
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:25:25 AM UTC
Hi Scott,
I am from France, and I never ever heard about this (very strange) rule... Doesn't seem very scientific to me anyway. It's not really "how long" it has been on the ground, but rather how the ground looked like...
In French that would be "La règle des cinq secondes".
Bonne journée Scott!
Benjamin.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:25:52 AM UTC
There is nothing like this at Czech Republic (afaik :)). If it was, it name would be "Pravidlo pěti vteřin"
Milan
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:25:58 AM UTC
Actually (in response to Gil) I've usually encountered the 5-second form. I don't think I've ever heard of the "7-second" version, but in practice it also depends on the type of food in question: "hard" food, such as candy etc., is more likely to be picked up than "soft" food (e.g. chocolate).
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:30:13 AM UTC
I am from the US and I only heard of this rule since I started reading blogs, which wasn't too many years ago.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:36:05 AM UTC
Here in Germany, I never heard something similar to the Five Seconds Rule but we have here a Rule that says "Dreck reinigt den Magen" (English: Dirt is cleaning your stomage) which more or less means the same like the 5 Seconds Rule.


BTW.: Scott: It would be very interesting to make a poll or something to see where your audience is from.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:44:40 AM UTC
Never heard of such rule in Hungary.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:44:57 AM UTC
The five second rule is alive and well in South Africa...
Werner
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:46:34 AM UTC
am totally with florian about creating a pool to check the different sections of the world that your audience are coming from.
well, here in my country (Egypt), we didnt hear this term befor although it's applied without a name to different kind of things.
kids are just like yours, they have the rule but without this 5 second thing(could be X years :) ) and for adults, it may apply to non wet or sweet food as you can be 70% sure that it didnt collect any dirt or any harmful thing if you dropped it, other than this kind of food, we apply another rule, 5 second to throw it away :) .
Mohammed El-Sayed
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:49:00 AM UTC
Reader from Sweden here.

I think we have that rule here too, femsekundersregeln, is the name in that case.
The principle hold true anyway in Sweden also.

Markus
Markus
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:55:43 AM UTC
I'm from Italy, and I can confirm simone's answer: never heard of it.

A close thing could be: "Quel che non ammazza, ingrassa" (Things that don't kill you, make you fat)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:50:48 AM UTC
India - rule not applicable.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:02:16 AM UTC
Also from Norway and have the 5-second rule as well. It's called the same thing, only in Norwegian: "5 sekundersregelen"
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:12:39 AM UTC
I've worked and lived the length and breadth of the UK and must admit I've never heard this one before, eating food that's been dropped is pretty much frowned upon over here which is probably more a 'snobish' reaction than a practical one.

I can't see any scientific basis for this rule but researchers get grants for all sorts of wierd stuff nowadays so I wouldn't be too suprised if someone's spent a fortune of tax payers money finding out.
PSG
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:23:01 AM UTC
Estonia here (East Europe). The rule does not exist here.
Bla bla bla
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:44:40 AM UTC
In Turkey we don't have such a thing and as a rule of thumb we never eat dropped stuff. So we apply 0 second rule as well.
Ahmet Kulu
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:16:05 AM UTC
I am from Holland, I never heard of this rule. But it might be my ignorance...
Erik Haverkamp
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:23:37 AM UTC
Here in Czech Republic we have a rule of three seconds, but I guess it was invoked only recently by some newspaper article.
Anyway, we say to our kids that it's only "clean dirt" (or "čistá špína" in czech) when they happen to drop something at home or in our garden :-)
Daniel
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:25:46 AM UTC
In the UK (at least the part that I inhabit) we don't have the 5 second rule per se, however you can of course pick up whatever you dropped, blow it to get all the nasties off, then eat it. That's fine.
Andrew
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:41:35 AM UTC
I'm from France, we have a rule that goes, how you say "if dropped not too too close to the turd, its ok!" Bon Appetite!
jacques
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:42:52 AM UTC
My girlfriend is a nurse and she uses the three second rule, maybe two seconds less makes all the difference :)

But yes, I've heard of it many times before (UK).
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:43:48 AM UTC
British hear. I never heard of the rule. I think it's good to eat most stuff... builds up some resistance for when you really eat something majorly bad. Maybe.

-Scott
Scott Langham
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:45:14 AM UTC
oops, maybe the bacteria causes you not to be able to spell.
Scott Langham
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:57:28 AM UTC
When I stayed in digs (student housing), we modified it to be the ten minute rule, just because we were lazy. We were South African and Zimbabwean students.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:59:22 AM UTC
It's know in the England also but I think I heard it on an episode of Friends but I may have known it since I was a kid.

I'm 45 now
:-)

Steve
Steve Naughton
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:12:51 PM UTC
In Scotland, the rule is you say 'God kissed it, devil missed it' as you pick it up and eat it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:35:53 PM UTC
And according to MythBusters, this rule was "busted" =)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:43:09 PM UTC
I'm from Argentina, where such rule don't exists. Here, we teach our children not to eat anything that touch the floor, but neither kids or adults obey that rule :)

edddy
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:05:02 PM UTC
Another Dane here - I had never heard about this rule until I saw it tested on Mythbusters a few months back.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:16:17 PM UTC
In South Africa the 5 second rule is alive and well !

Mostly used in my case when meat is dropped off the bbq (or braai in local speak) when cooking after a few beers :)
Matthew Pelser
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:39:31 PM UTC
I just found a chicken wing under my desk from a few days ago. Still tastes fabulous to me!!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:28:55 PM UTC
Hey Scott, I'm from The Netherlands, us students have the 2 second rule for eating off the floor, ofcourse, our floors usually are pretty gross :P
Tinco Andringa
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 2:44:30 PM UTC
@Scott - You missed the fact that the actual time allowed is inversely proportional to the number of people who see you pick the food up and the average BAC of the group at the time the incident occurred.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:12:10 PM UTC
Never heard here in Germany. My rule is strongly related with my current hunger. :-)
section31
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:35:41 PM UTC
Man I've been using this rule since I can remember, cept I got a twist for "wet" foods. If its fruit or vedgie's I just rince them off and wipe them on a paper towel or whatever. Meat....not so much
Eric
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:37:05 PM UTC
npr said it's more like a 45 second rule, so i stick to that.
Darren Kopp
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:40:19 PM UTC
Yes I've heard of it. I can say so for Scotland and South Africa.

More localization info to think about scott :)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:49:14 PM UTC
Well, to add to all the Israelis, I also know about it as the 5 second rule (called just the same here, but in hebrew) in truth there are many Israelis with an Anglo-Saxon origins here and also everyone is very connected to american culture so it might be a direct feed and not really israeli culture...
An interesting article I read not long ago (can't remember where) says that not only everyone knows the rule, but also that it sort of works... (it also says that most floors are in fact good enough to eat from - even if they seem to be too dirty).
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 4:54:09 PM UTC
I've heard that rule before, but only in American TV shows. The rule doesn't exist in Mexico, as there is zero tolerance. The moment something feels into the floor, it's been said that it was "kissed by the devil" (Lo beso el Diablo), and therefore, useless.
Kanapox
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:17:00 PM UTC
In Canada, it's known as "The Five-Second Rule, eh?" and it doesn't apply in the case of yellow snow.
Rick
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:23:29 PM UTC
French Canadian, same rule here but in french ;)
Pat
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:42:20 PM UTC
As the other two Mexicans say, that rule doesn't seem to exist here, but people do pick stuff up a lot, and the variation I say/hear to the phrase they mention is "ya lo chupo el diablo" (blew by the devil)... and not that we particularly care :-)

Sometimes it's like a contest between "macho" friends. Whoever picks up the nastiest stuff from the floor gets braggin' rights.

Regarding wet stuff like cake, you use a knife to take the top part that didn't touch the ground :-)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:45:34 PM UTC
Iceland: yep, everybody knows it, and it's called “fimm sekúndna reglan” (which is just a direct translation).
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:49:28 PM UTC
Romania, East Europe.

Haven't heard ever about this rule and we don't eat things on the floor no matter how poor we are / were.

In Romanian this would sound like "Regula celor cinci secunde".

Regula = The Rule
Celor = Of The
Cinci = Five = 5
Secunde = Seconds
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:02:52 PM UTC
It's practiced in Northern Ireland, though (typically/sadly) we've even managed to have alternative behaviours based on religious grounds. As a catholic I learnt to bless the retrieved item with the sign of the cross to guarantee it was still safe to eat (this also extended the 5 second rule as well...), whereas none of my protestant friends do this.
cathal
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:14:42 PM UTC
It's used over here in england, by me if not anyone else. I saw a tv program once that looked into it. Would you believe sidewalks/pavements and shopping centers are far cleaner places to use the rule than your own kitchen and home, yet people are still more likely to do it in their home.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:34:52 PM UTC
Once our six year old dropped something on the floor and my wife said: "Ten Second Rule". Our little guy responded in an authoritative tone. "Mom, it's the Five second rule."
Matt
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:58:53 PM UTC
Hi Scott
From Ireland, never heard of the rule, but if we kids were ever reluctant to eat something, including something that fell on the ground, my Dad would simply say "Sure it won't poison ya" (Pronounced PIE-ZEN)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:07:36 PM UTC
England here, I've certainly heard of it before (and practiced it!). However, I've always known of it as the 3 second rule.

Seems like most western countries have some version of it, although judging by my fellow englishmen it depends on your region too.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:15:03 PM UTC
Nobody drops food on floors in Switzerland. The floors are always clean. (unless you have a 2-year-old)
John
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:53:17 PM UTC
The 5 second rule is voided when in certain places such as movie theaters and sports stadiums unless you are arrive early and the floor is not sticky yet. LOS does not apply in these places either.

Brett Woodward
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:11:17 PM UTC
Having a 2-year-old, the time span is shrinking. A year ago it would have been the "you can still pick it up for eating unless it tries to slide away from you" -- but I am sure you know that from your own exceperience.
Anyway, never heard about that rule here in Bavaria. But spill a beer here and they will get you within less then five seconds :-)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:26:45 PM UTC
I'm from Dominican Republic and we don't have the 5 seconds rule (at least that I'm aware of). You're not supossed to eat anything after it hits the floor, but everybody does it and says one of two phrases while picking the food to eat it.

The first which is the most used:
"Lo que no mata, engorda" - What doesn't kill you, makes you fat.

The second one used rarely (mostly by seniors):
"Lo no mata, te hace más fuerte" - What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 1:18:22 AM UTC
No such rule in France and never heard of it.

At first I though that rule was about something less literal, like "think 5 seconds before doing something". I'm surprised to see that you are really talking about dropped food.

Is this valid for any surface it may fall on? I won't cite here what I have in mind ;)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:20:26 AM UTC
It's 3 seconds in japan.
chieko
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:27:23 AM UTC
We had an interesting variant of this rule in my Scout troop growing up. This rule was extended to an indefinite time limit when on a backpacking trip in the mountains, especially near the end of the trip when the food was running thin :D.
zScouter
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:40:23 AM UTC
I am from England. Never heard of it. If you drop food on the floor you should learn to use a knife and fork properly in the USA - knife in the right hand, fork in the left hand.
John
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:56:02 AM UTC
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 8:47:16 AM UTC
Well, I'm British, and I've never heard of this.

It sounds like there's no scientific basis behind it, just some myth that's been propagated around the world.
Ian
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 9:26:26 AM UTC
Being from Good Old Germany I've never heard of that rule before. And I wouldn't ever eat something that went to the ground before. Yuck!
The Janitor
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:25:25 AM UTC
Alive and well in NZ (tho never heard of the LOS addition)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:31:11 AM UTC
I am from Israel, but orginally I was born in Uzbekistan, ex-USSR.
I never heard of it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:49:44 AM UTC

In Belgium, we don't believe in the principle of dropping food on the ground. It's not rational. Anyway, I have never heard of this rule. But it would translate to something like 'de vijf seconden regel'.
Cornelius
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:00:13 PM UTC
Venezuela: I don't think we have such rule.

However, we use the same phase than in Rep. Dominicaine and Brazil (according to others post above)... "what doesn't kill you gets you fatter" - Maybe it's the same in most of Central and South american countries.

Cheers !!
Manotas
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:40:18 PM UTC
Never heard of it here in Portugal. However, we have something for the same use case (food dropping on the floor): some people pick it up and blow on it (very softly) or give a little kiss.

We also have the saying "what doesn't kill you gets you fatter" that Manotas talked about.

Pedro
Pedro Carvalho
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:46:44 PM UTC
Scott,

In China I don't think we have such a rule. It's believed it is not clean anymore as long as food drops on ground. Especially for children.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:52:00 PM UTC
I'm for Israel, as are my parents, and I've only read about this rule on the Internet. My mother would actually tell me that dirt and sand are natural and edible, so I should worry.
Aviv H.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:17:15 PM UTC
I'm glad you mentioned the more liberal approach to hard items such as M&Ms. I described this thread to my friends last night in the bar, and Patti shared the "M&M corollary" which, loosely stated, says "the only time you can't eat M&Ms is from the vacuum cleaner bag".

Sorry if you were eating lunch.
Thursday, October 18, 2007 4:18:28 AM UTC
I'm from India, and we don't have that rule.
In the US though I've heard a variation called the 3-second rule, but had not heard about the 5-second rule before.
Revi
Thursday, October 18, 2007 7:40:47 PM UTC
We have a similar rule in Philippines though I can't really remember if it's "5 seconds". But the reasoning behind is that the germs/bacteria are running away when the food was falling, and as long as they haven't gotten the chance to come back and attack the food, it's still clean. So I guess it depends on how fast you think they run =)
ren
Friday, October 19, 2007 5:57:15 AM UTC
I live in Romania and there is no such 'rule' here, not even with some other name..

It all depends on the environment and family in which each person has grown (big city, countryside, poor/rich family, education received as a kid etc..)
Tudor
Friday, October 19, 2007 12:21:55 PM UTC
UK - nope
Bill
Friday, October 19, 2007 4:54:28 PM UTC
I am also from Sweden, and had never heard about the five second rule before seeing the Mythbuster-episode about it .
David Eliason
Friday, October 19, 2007 5:38:26 PM UTC
Israeli here and I've never heard of the 5 second rule before I started using The Internets.
Friday, October 19, 2007 6:16:46 PM UTC
Scott,

Dr. Know (I forget what TV network broad casted his show) did a show about the five second rule in which he examined the bacteria picked up by different foods dropped in different places. His findings where the hard shelled items (e.g. M&M's) picked up almost no bacteria; however, wet items pick up a lot (especially fecal matter). The other interesting finding was that your kitchen floor was dirtier than a sidewalk (has to do with the amount of sunlight each get and the fact that prolonged exposure to sunlight kills a lot of different kind of bacteria).

Anyway, just some food for thought.

Dave
Dave
Saturday, October 20, 2007 8:57:14 AM UTC
In Australia where I live, it depends how nice it is, not how long it was on the floor for (within reason). I suspect there is an equation that relates niceness with allowable time on floor but I couldn't quote it ...
Cheers!
Dave Beggs
Sunday, October 21, 2007 7:58:27 AM UTC
I'm from France, but unlike most of the french people who posted here, I had already heard that rule before. Of course, the actual duration varies (I heard it sometimes with 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.).
Now I'm in Vancouver, and I heard it from Kenyan and Californian people.
I guess the rule is pretty much known everywhere, but only in some countries is it really an actual proverb or saying or whatever.
lordabdul
Sunday, October 21, 2007 9:27:24 AM UTC
Never heard of such concepts here in Singapore. however depending on where and what you drop, sometimes it is "salvagable" by washing and shaving. The good news is our human digestive system can deal with a little bit of contamination, and I have never had any stomach upsets from vulturing adventures in my life. Then again, as one gets older i guess one feels the less need to consume every bit of energy store so a little droppage generally doesn't require salvaging.
Monday, October 22, 2007 1:59:34 AM UTC
Growing up in the UK, knowing the 5 second rule is (at least in the South-East - London area) known by most kids and most definitely applied liberally with those cheating hard shells (Skittles, M&Ms et al.) but also applied to fruit quite liberally when eat say an apple, but if the apple flesh touches? That requires some surgical removal of aforementioned 'tainted area'.
Simon
Monday, October 22, 2007 6:24:00 AM UTC
Russian student's slang contains also another version of it:
Whatever student has dropped, it falls on a newspaper.
Backfin
Monday, October 22, 2007 1:10:46 PM UTC
In my experience I came across the 5-second rule whilst living in the US (possibly first heard it in a movie, but maybe it was only in the movie because it's common knowledge there), but since returning to the UK several years ago I have found myself having to explain it to quite a few people.
Philip the Duck
Thursday, October 25, 2007 7:54:07 PM UTC
Im from Denmark and I have heard of it from UK/US television but I dont believe its used in our language, but I have been known to pick some things of a clean floor and wash it of ;)

@Henrik Laursen who did the bit about the "time dilation device"?
Friday, October 26, 2007 4:14:37 AM UTC
I'm from Lebanon and we don't have that rule. There's actually an old folk saying there which says that you shouldn't eat stuff that falls on the floor because the devil, who supposedly lives underground, might have licked it :)
Friday, October 26, 2007 11:20:05 PM UTC
I'm from Slovenia and this post is the first time I have heard of the rule.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.