Scientists: 'Five-second rule' is (mostly) true

Let's face it. At one time or another, most of us have probably called the "five-second rule" on a piece of food after it tragically hit the floor. You pick it up, brush it off, and try not to think about the last time you mopped. 

For those of you who have never heard of the five-second rule, the idea is that once your food has touched the floor it's probably still safe to eat if you pick it up within five seconds. It's a little gross, but what else are you going to do when you just paid for that pizza?

 

"Our study showed that a surprisingly large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so." - Professor Anthony Hilton

The good news is that researchers in the United Kingdom have used science to prove that your food is likely safe after taking a tumble. According to the release from Aston University, Professor of Microbiology Anthony Hilton studied the transfer of bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus toast, pasta, and other sticky foods. Each type of food was tested on various types of indoor flooring for three to 30 seconds. 

The bad news is that your food is only as safe as your floor is clean. 

“Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth," Professor Hilton said. 

Another variable in the safety of floor food is the type of flooring it was dropped on. The team's research showed bacteria was least likely to be transferred from carpet and most likely to be transferred from hard surfaces like tile or laminate.

"We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food," Professor Hilton said.

Another piece of the Aston University survey sought to find out how widely used the five-second rule actually is and the results surprised the professor.

"Our study showed that a surprisingly large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so. But they are also more likely to follow the five-second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives' tale," he found.

The survey showed: 

- 87% of people surveyed said they would eat food dropped on the floor, or already have done so
- 55% of those that would, or have, eaten food dropped on the floor are women
- 81% of the women who would eat food from the floor would follow the five-second rule

Read the full release here.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment