Fallen food still okay for 5 seconds: study

Sarah MacNeil Sarah MacNeil

Sarah MacNeil
Life Reporter

Researchers have found evidence the five-second rule is not just a cop-out for eating food off the floor.

The rule is an urban myth about the amount of time dropped food can remain on the floor before becoming inedible.

A research team led by Professor Anthony Hilton at Aston University in the United Kingdom looked at bacteria present on different types of flooring against how long food can be in contact before contamination.

The result showed that time is a factor for bacterial transfer. Carpeted surfaces are least likely to transmit germs while tile and laminate are risky after five seconds.

The scientists also conducted an anonymous survey to go along with the research.

Hilton’s team found 87 per cent of people would eat food off the floor and this behavior is more likely to occur in females as opposed to males.

“Clearly, the rule is much more than an old wives’ tale,” said Hilton in a press release.

“The most common types of bacteria found on surfaces are not pathogenic, which is why we are not getting sick all the time,” said Dr. Ronald Stewart, a bioscience professor at Humber.

He said students should keep in mind how often surfaces are cleaned if they are consuming dropped food.

“It is not so much about how long it takes for bacteria to latch onto food, but more about how many different types of germs are present,” Stewart said.

“If a cookie is dropped outside on a dog run, someone probably shouldn’t pick it up and eat it. If it falls on the carpet at home however, that is a different story,” he said.

Humber students have mixed feelings about the idea of eating dropped food.

“I would never eat food off the floor!” said Clarrize Fesalvo, an Early Childhood Education student.

“I will [eat off the floor] if the surface is clean. Especially if it is chocolate,” said Manushi Patel, a Computer and Network Support Tech student.

The new British study contrasts with a 2012 report by Dr. Jorge Parada from Loyola University in Chicago that suggests the five-second rule is not scientific.

Aston University’s study was released on March 10 and has not yet been peer reviewed.