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  • SLOAN COLUMN: Long live the five-second rule

SLOAN COLUMN: Long live the five-second rule

on Tuesday, 14 July 2020. Posted in Columns, Opinions

SLOAN COLUMN: Long live the five-second rule

By: Bob Sloan

Imagine you just grabbed the last slice of your grandma’s homemade pie and are headed to the couch for a little rest, relaxation, and Netflix binging. Life is good.

As your make your way from the kitchen to the living room, a glass of milk in one hand and that priceless piece of baked heavenliness in the other, disaster strikes. Frisky Fido causes you to stumble and the pie (oh please, say it ain’t so!) falls to the floor.

Stunned, you look down and survey the carnage. It’s not good, you think, but it could be worse. In those fleeting moments following such a tragic occurrence, you face a moment of truth that each and every one of us must confront at some point in our lives: Do I or don’t I? Do you scoop up what you can salvage of the pie back onto your plate and enjoy, or do you chalk it up as a complete loss and scrape the remains into the trash bin?

It’s in moments such as these we call upon the “Five-Second Rule.” This oft-invoked unofficial standard of cleanliness applies to situations where food is dropped on the floor. According to the statues of the five-second rule, the offending party has five seconds in which to retrieve the victimized food from the floor/ground before it is considered unsafe for consumption.

We’ve all been there. Be it a piece of pie on the living room carpet, a slice of bacon on the kitchen linoleum, or a Tootsie Pop dropped on the floorboard of the car, you’ve snatched it up and wiped it off. Chances are you probably looked around to ensure no one was looking and then popped it into your mouth without so much as a second thought. Guilty as charged.

I believe in the five-second rule and I am thankful for it. It has rescued me from my clumsiness on an assorted number of occasions. There are certain laws that are universal in nature. The five-second rule, as I see it, is one of them, 

I recently found myself searching the Internet for something worthwhile to waste my time on. After 15 or so minutes of mindlessly moving from one web page to the next, I came across an article that caught my attention. The headline stated the COVID-19 pandemic has officially put an end to the five-second rule. The risk, the article claimed, is far too great.

“At a time when we are dealing with an unprecedented crisis like coronavirus, it is safe to say that the 5-second rule has now officially come to an end.”

The article even cited a 2016 study by a group of Ivy League brainiacs from Rutgers University that confirmed the five-second rule as being scientifically unfounded and clearly unsafe. The researchers put the rule to the test and found that food can be contaminated almost immediately upon coming in contact with the floor. The learned scholars tested four different foods - watermelon, bread, bread and butter, and gummy candy – to reach their conclusion. Impressive stuff, right?

What a gigantic pile of steaming, stinky horse-hockey!

Folks, virus or no virus, the five-second rule isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. At this point I would normally say, “Don’t get me started,” but apparently I already have, so here goes:

It really took a brigade of bookworms and a study that probably cost an insane amount of money to confirm what common sense already tells us? It’s quite simple: If you drop it on the floor, it’s going to get dirty. It does not matter whether it sits there five seconds, 30 seconds, or 300 seconds, it will - not might, not possibly, not could likely, but will - be dirty. This is fact. No ifs, and, or buts. You can take it to the bank. No study necessary.

And does this information, which we already knew but needed an Ivy League study to confirm, change the way we think about the five-second rule? Not a chance. Why? Because we already know it’s dirty and we simply don’t care. We know there may be a hair or two to be pulled off or a speck of dirt to eat around, but the risk far outweighs the reward. This isn’t rocket science, folks.

The glory of the five-second rule is that it is based not on scientific data, but on the human condition. How badly do you want it and to what length are you willing to go to achieve fulfillment? That cupcake covered in sprinkles and dirt specks is still pretty enticing, isn’t it?

One must understand, however, there are variables to be considered when applying the five-second rule. Among them: What is the food type? What surface did the food fall upon? Are you at home or in public?

Another important variable to consider, especially if you are at home or visiting a neighbor, is whether or not there are dogs in the vicinity. If there is a canine present, you may want to step up your game. Five seconds is probably too long. Rover will not hesitate.

The bottom line is this: The five-second rule is based on a risk-versus-reward scenario. My personal belief is a little dirt or a dog hair or two ain’t gonna kill ya. Then again, I’m the guy who eats ice cream with his dog while sharing the same spoon. What do I know?

Contact Editor Bob Sloan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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