Personal Health

New Study Says Mom Was Right: The ‘Five Second Rule’ Has Some Truth to It

Science finds that food picked up a few seconds after being dropped is slightly safer.

Here’s some great news for germaphobes! It turns out that the fabled five-second grace period allowing you to pick up food after it’s dropped may not be such an urban myth after all and may in fact avoid contamination. 

According to a new study carried out at Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, the five-second rule actually has a scientific basis. 

Research undertaken by biology students monitored the transfer of common bacteria E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus from indoor floor types (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) to various foods like toast, pasta, biscuits and sweets, when contact was made from 3 to 30 seconds.

The results showed that time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food and the type of flooring also had an effect.  Carpeted surfaces posed the lowest risk while bacteria was most likely to transfer from tiled surfaces to moist foods when it has made contact for more than five seconds.

But before you go eating off the floor just yet, microbiology professor Anthony Hilton who led the study said in press release that consuming food dropped on the floor was not a good idea.

“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,” he said.  “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 said.

The findings will come as good news for the 87 percent of people out there surveyed who employ the five-second rule:

“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 five second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives tail,” Hilton said.



Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.