Updated 28 July 2014

The five-second rule really works! Well, almost

Depending on what kind of food and the type of floor it fell on, the five-second rule could actually be true.

There is the old myth that if you pick up food dropped on the floor within 5 seconds, germs won't have a chance to 'stick' to it and it will still good to eat. 

Research from the Aston University in England (March 2014) shows that, depending on what kind of food it is and what kind of floor it fell on, it could indeed be completely safe to eat and the 5-second rule is not just an old wives' tale after all.

''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," said Anthony Hilton, a professor of microbiology at the University.

Read: Which of these 13 food superstitions do you believe in

"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," he added.

Carpet poses the lowest risk

"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."

For their study, Hilton and his students tracked how many germs transferred to toast, pasta, a cookie and a sticky sweets after they fell onto carpeted, laminate and tiled floors.

Read: Is your home a death trap and you don't know it?

The investigators looked specifically at the germs E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus to see if the foods picked them up after being left on the floor for between 3 and 30 seconds.

The time the food spent on the floor and the type of flooring both had effects on the likelihood of transfer of germs.

More time translated to more germs, while carpet was the least likely to transfer bacteria; laminated and tiled floods boosted the risk that germs would transfer to moist foods after 5 seconds or more.

Who eats food that fell on the floor?

The researchers also surveyed people about their willingness to eat food that had dropped on the floor.

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

"But they are also more likely to follow the 5-second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives' tale."

Here's more on the five-second rule and previous attempts to disprove it:

Read more:

Eating cookies off the floor and other gross habits kids have

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning

Is your kitchen floor a germ trap

Image: scooping food off the floor, Shutterstock

Source: Aston University via Health Day

The cartoon illustration was created by Greg Williams in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation. It has been uploaded as part of the WikiWorld WikiProject.


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