Science says go ahead and eat the food you dropped on the floor, maybe

Illustration for article titled Science says go ahead and eat the food you dropped on the floor, maybe

Good news, fellow hungry yet clumsy diners! The "five-second rule" may just have some credence to it after all — depending on just where you dropped your food.

Microbiologist Anthony Hilton at Aston University had his students look into how much E.Coli and Staph bacteria collected on food that had just been dropped on the floor. It turned out that less amount of time on the floor did make a difference for sticky foods (though not so much for drier foods).


And just like the texture of the food mattered, so did the texture of the surface, with carpet spreading less bacteria than tile. NPR's The Salt explains:

For dry foods, like cookies and toast, waiting a full 30 seconds didn't make much of a difference in the number of critters that jumped on, microbiologist Anthony Hilton and his students reported this week on the university's website. The team hasn't published the data yet. So the findings are still preliminary and need to be confirmed. But the conclusions make sense: If you snatch up a wet gummy bear three seconds after it hits a tile or laminate floor, it will pick up much fewer microbes than if you wait 30 seconds — at least for the two bacteria examined, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. And for carpet, you've got an even longer grace period. It didn't matter whether the food was wet or dry, the surface spread the least germs, even over the full 30 seconds, the team found.

So, if you're looking to eat that piece of toast you just dropped, butter-side down is a problem, butter-side up you might just still have time to snatch it back up.

What do you all think? Are you convinced, will you wait for a more comprehensive study before you're comfortable eating food that was (very briefly) on the floor, or does science not enter into this particular decision for you?


Image: Chad Zuber / Shutterstock.

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