Good News: The 5-second rule is an actual scientific thing.

5-second rule
We’ve all been there.



Hands up who’s ever picked up a sandwich dropped by a bawling child, given it a quick dust-down and handed it back to the kid? Or secretly scoffed a bagel that fell on the office floor because, man, that cream cheese looked just too damn tasty to go to waste?

Yeah, us too.

Turns out there’s no reason for us to feel guilty about our devotion to the “five-second rule”. People: a new study has found that the urban myth is actually a REAL THING.


Yup, that’s right. A new study carried out by scientists at Aston University in Birmingham, England, has confirmed that food picked up before five seconds is less likely to have bacteria than food left on the floor for longer.

There’s one catch, though: the safety of eating food off the floor depends on the type of flooring you’re working on, with carpeted surfaces proving least dangerous in terms of transferring bacteria onto food.

And, weirdly enough, the study showed that moist foods like pasta and sticky sweets are the safest of the tested foods to eat after an encounter with the ground. (So the next time you recycle that lollipop your kid’s dropped, you can tell those judge-y onlookers it’s totally legit.)

So exactly how did this research go down?

A team of microbiologists dropped toast, biscuits, pasta and sticky sweets onto various surfaces, including carpet, tiled surfaces and laminate.  They then waited from three to 30 seconds, and monitored the transfer of common bacteria, E. coli and S. aureus, finding that- while there are no guarantees that eating dropped food is always healthy – the rate of bacterial transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is generally pretty low.

As study leader Professor Anthony C. Hilton said:

“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; however, the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years.”

Thanks, science.

Do you follow the five-second rule in your house? With which foods (or surfaces) do you draw the line?

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