Sandra Dodd

I’m going to link a short online article from in a bit but first I’m going to show you the first two paragraphs and say a few words. :-) The article is about “the five-second rule” meaning that some people (just Americans? Probably it’s not ancient, as the word “second” is in there) will pick up food they’ve dropped and say “five second rule!” and eat it. More on that below.


Many people of all ages agree: Food, when dropped on the floor, remains “good” for five seconds. But this pillar of American folklore, the so-called “five-second rule,” is now under attack from scientists at Rutgers University.

Though the five-second rule may seem like a silly line of inquiry, food safety is a major health burden in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, one in six Americans (roughly 48 million people) get sick from foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

#1, paragraph 1, I don’t think ANYbody thinks it’s a real rule worth of scientific inquiry, nor that it deserves “attack” from any university. :-) I’m sad that anything with the name Smithsonian on it is creating bullshit click bait. But this is the 21st century, and we move on toward… Idiocracy, perhaps.

It’s good-natured humor, to say “five second rule!” It’s like “dibs” or “pick-poke, you owe me a Coke.” I don’t know anyone who would pick something wet (from a burrito to ice cream or watermelon) up off a public place’s floor and eat it. Well… if I know the floor was recently mopped and only the tortilla touches, I might proceed with the burrito, personally, myself, but not if I dropped it on the ground at the State fair, nor at my own house if the floor hadn’t been mopped since… whenever Holly last visited and mopped it.

Although the article goes on to lighten up, that first paragraph seems to suggest that some people honestly believe “the five second rule” is scientific.

And the title makes it even worse, though generally articles’ titles are not written by the “reporter,” but by an editor, and in the case of a money-making-by-clicks website, then by the webmaster who has his own click-fish to fry.

SMARTNEWS Keeping you current
TITLE: What Does Science Say About the Five-Second Rule? It’s Complicated
SubTitle: The real world is a lot more nuanced than this simple rule reflects

#2, my REAL complaint and concern, about the second paragraph, which ended this way:

-=- food safety is a major health burden in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, one in six Americans (roughly 48 million people) get sick from foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.-=-

I would LOVE to magically know (because I am confident that the CDC does not have this on their questionnaire), how many of those who were hospitalized or died fit one of these categories, if such categories were being considered:

-eating something someone else was requiring them to eat
-eating something that didn’t look right, or smell right, but ate it anyway
-never considers the look or smell of food because
*************blind or no sense of smell
*************does not believe that humans have instincts
*************checked “sell by” and that date hadn’t passed
*************wouldn’t have any idea how to tell if food has gone bad

But some food can make a person sick without looking or smelling bad at all! They don’t sell alfalfa sprouts at the chain store nearest my house because of salmonella cases a few years ago. Alfalfa sprouts are good for you, right? RIGHT? Well… some days Twinkies are better than alfalfa sprouts, if it’s a salmonella-tainted batch. It only takes a little bit.

My husband got Hepatitis A years ago. We didn’t know what it was at first (of course), but he was dying, first at a campout he was in charge of–hundreds of people there, but he went to bed and stayed all day. Then at home, not at all better. Not knowing what day it was or what was going on. I talked body-builder friends of mine to come and take him to the emergency room whether he wanted to go or not. I don’t even think he knew what was going on, so he didn’t object. He wasn’t the only one. In all these cases the Center for Disease Control tracks where the person has been, what he might have been doing or eating. Keith’s and many other people’s traced back to lettuce in a restaurant not far from the airport in San Francisco. Lettuce is good for you, right?

So in conclusion…
LOTS of things.
In conclusion, allow children to reject food they don’t like, or that doesn’t smell like something they should eat, or doesn’t look good to them. Don’t extinguish a child’s instincts because you-the-parent seems sure that you know more, know facts, know rules.

I think (though I could be wrong) that the stats on hospitalization and death from food-borne illness could, would be lower if no person ever felt pressured to eat what didn’t seem right, and if each person felt empowered to look at and smell and think about food before sticking it inside.

Some of the same parents who would be horriied if someone tried to stick something inside some other orifice on any child’s body are pressuring kids to eat things the child doesn’t want to eat.

YES, yes, yes to those who want to say “but what about life-saving medicines, what about water in the desert, what about what about what about?
Instead of looking for exceptions to knock my ideas away with, read a little (of this or anything else), try a little (try not forcing food OR “knowledge” into children), wait a while (and while you’re waiting, ponder the nature of “fact”) and watch for the effects of the read/try/wait process, on your own thinking, or on the child’s reactions and responses, or on the relationship.

Read more:


Sandra Dodd

I meant “worthy,” not “worth” so I’m fixing it and I would like to thank those who can gloss over my typos. I used to type better, I think. I hope.

I don’t think ANYbody thinks it’s a real rule worthy of scientific inquiry.