Turns out, the “five-second rule” – that justified reasoning for the clumsy eater who doesn’t want to sacrifice any of those french fries – is actually a real thing!
Researchers found that food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped on the floor is less likely to contain bacteria than food left on the floor for longer periods of time. That is, in essence, the theory of the five-second rule. However, now it’s official.
“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, Professor of Microbiology at Aston University. “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.”
A study conducted at Aston University School of Life and Health Science in Birmingham, England, monitored the transfer of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus on a variety of foods after having been dropped on one of several types of flooring (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) for periods ranging from three to 30 seconds.
The researchers found that time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from floor to food; and the type of flooring the food has been dropped on is also a factor. Bacteria least likely to transfer from carpet and most likely to transfer from a laminate or tile floor to moist foods making contact for more than five seconds.
“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,” said Hilton.
The study also included a survey to find people who have used the five-second rule (who hasn’t?). “Our study showed that a surprisingly large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so,” said Hilton. In fact, 87 percent of people surveyed said they would eat food dropped on the floor, or already have done so.
But, still, is it that difficult to get yourself some clean food instead?