Good news for people who simply cannot let a perfectly good morsel of food go to waste just because it hit the floor: the five-second rule is totally legit, a scientist says.
The scientist’s opinion, based on his research, comes on the heels of a survey that found a full 79 percent of people admit to eating food that’s fallen on the floor. Gross, you may be thinking—but those 1,580 honest people are on to something, says germ expert and Aston University microbiologist Anthony Hilton told media before he presented his research today at The Big Bang Fair in the U.K. Hilton contends that you can totally take food off the floor and eat it—within a reasonably short amount of time, of course.
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He’s not saying that germs don’t transfer to food once it’s hit the ground. It definitely does.
But, “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 [of germs] that can transfer,” Hilton says. But if you can grab your food off the floor within those first five or so precious seconds, your risk of getting sick is relatively low.
“Obviously, food covered in visible dirt shouldn't be eaten, 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,” says Hilton.
Interestingly, carpets pose the least bacteria risk to your fallen food, Hilton’s research found, while laminate floors and tile are the most dangerous. But regardless of the surface, no one is recommending you can wait even longer than five seconds to scoop food from a carpeted surface.
The lesson here, rather, is that we don’t have to be quite so concerned when our food drops. If it’s something you have to have, Hilton says, you can still eat it—quickly. But if you can’t bring yourself to eat food from the floor, either, no one here is blaming you.