The old “5-second rule” — which says it’s OK to pick up dropped food as long as it’s within 5 seconds — now has a study behind it that it’s true.
A study by Anthony Hilton, a professor of microbiology at Aston University in the United Kingdom, and his students used different foods to see how much bacteria was attracted to it after hitting the floor.
They dropped food on carpet, laminate and tiles for 3 to 30 seconds. The study showed “Time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food; and the type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than 5 seconds.”
Said Hilton: “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 5-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth.
“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.”
The team also did a survey on the number of people who used the 5-second rule. It found “87 (percent) of people surveyed said they would eat food dropped on the floor, or already have done so; 55 (percent) of those that would, or have, eaten food dropped in the floor are women; and 81 (percent) of the women who would eat food from the floor would follow the 5-second rule.”
Said Hilton: “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 5 second rule.”