The 5-Second Rule: It IS True…Sort of

Applying the 5-second rule to food you've dropped on the floor may not make you sick, all the time.

5-second ruleDoes food that's been dropped on the floor really have fewer germs if you eat it within five seconds of it falling? Should you eat it? These are the burning questions that scientists from Aston University in Birmingham, England, ponder every day.

And fortunately for them, they've come up with some answers: Yes, and maybe.

Professor Anthony Hilton conducted six different studies to find out whether the number of germs on a piece of food varied based on how long it lingered on the floor, and his research revealed that eating food within five seconds of it falling on the floor will, in fact, expose you to fewer bacteria. But there are a few exceptions…

• Floor type matters. Overall, carpet appears to transmit fewer bacteria than laminate or tile.

• Food type matters. On tile and laminate, dry foods like toast were found to harbor fewer bacteria than wet foods (the researchers tested with pasta) and sweet sticky foods. On carpeted floors, bacteria levels didn't seem to be affected by food type.

• Time matters. The researchers tested for bacteria on foods left for three seconds and for 30 seconds. Again, food that had fallen on carpeted floors didn't have any significant change in bacteria levels, regardless of time, but on tile and laminate, the three-second food had far lower levels of bacteria than the 30-second food.

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