By Joey Skladany
Updated September 09, 2016
ice cream, pink, cone, dropped ice cream
Credit: © Image Source/Getty Images

Not true. Not true at all.

Dream killers researchers at Rutgers University have successfully disproven the idea that fallen food is safe to eat within five seconds after hitting the floor. That means the next pretzel, pizza slice or M&M to slip from your grip can be cross-contaminated—almost instantaneously—as soon as it makes contact with any other surface.

Food science professor Donald Shaffner tells Rutgers Today that the moisture level, surface type and length of time all play a role in the amount of bacteria transferred. Shaffner and his team tested four surfaces (stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood and carpet), four different foods (watermelon, bread, bread and butter and gummy candy) and four contact times (less than one second, five seconds, 30 seconds and 300 seconds) to achieve results that are “backed by solid science.”

The research found that watermelon yielded the highest rates of contamination, while gummy candy had the least. Carpet also had very low contamination rates compared to its harder counterparts.

“Transfer of bacteria from surfaces to food appears to be affected most by moisture,” Schaffner revealed. “Bacteria don’t have legs, they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.”

So while five seconds may be a "healthier" alternative than five minutes, it doesn't mean you're in the clear from picking up some unwanted strains of microorganisms.

“The ‘five-second rule’ is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food. Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously." Schaffner added.

This is horrible news for those of us who just can't hold on to our food. But if you're going to break the rules and be a contaminated food-eating rebel, you'll fare best with a dropped gummi bear on a new living room rug.