The Five-Second Rule Is Actually Legit Says Scientist

by Rosy Cordero ; Updated March 15, 2017

You know that moment of dread when you drop a tortilla chip on the floor: Should I or shouldn’t I pick it up and eat it? Now there’s an answer to that age-old question. A scientist from Birmingham in the United Kingdom has found that the five-second rule is not a mere joke.

Germ expert Anthony Hilton, who researched 2,000 people as part of the study, spoke to the British press on Wednesday regarding his findings about the safety of consuming food that has fallen on the floor. “Eating food that has spent a few moments on the floor can never be entirely risk-free,” Hilton said, according to The Independent.

“Obviously, food covered in visible dirt shouldn’t be eaten,” he clarified, “but as long as it’s not obviously contaminated, the science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor.” Note the keyword “indoor.”

This was not a blanket study that covers all foods, however. Items like cookies, chocolate, potato chips and some sandwiches that have fallen on tile or laminate floors have little to no increase of germs for up to half an hour. Almost as surprising is the fact that carpets do a much better job at keeping germs at bay than the aforementioned flooring options.

The report goes on to say, “Our research has shown that the nature of the floor surface, the type of food dropped on the floor and the length of time it spends on the floor can all have an impact on the number that can transfer. That is not to say that germs can’t transfer from the floor to the food.”

According to Mashable.com, which received a full copy of the report, the five-second rule still applies to foods like pasta, fries or toast that falls with the butter- or jam-side down because moist foods transfer more bacteria from the floor if left for more than five seconds.

What you might infer from Hilton’s findings is to continue to use your best judgment if you find yourself in this type of situation. But at least all the germophobes can breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that the chances of picking up anything dangerous from fallen food is a lot less than previously thought.

What Do YOU Think?

Will you admit to eating food that has fallen on the floor? Are you more likely to eat food that you drop now that you know it’s safer? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Rosy Cordero is an entertainment and lifestyle writer based in Los Angeles, California. She has nearly ten years covering celebrities and has been published in Variety Magazine, Latina Magazine, Variety Latino, Vice, Teen Vogue and NBC. When Rosy is not busy working the red carpet, she's hot on the trail of her next exclusive.