Five Seconds Of Fallen Food: How Much Time Do You Really Have?

5-second rule

You’ve probably experienced it before– you drop a piece of food on the ground as you’re about to stick it in your mouth, and, as you instinctively dive to the floor to pick it back up, the friend you’re with yells, “five-second rule!”

And, of course, the food eventually makes its way into its final home: your mouth.

But does food that was dropped on the floor really have less germs if you eat it five seconds or less after it dropped to the depths below? Should you still eat it?

According to researchers from Aston University, the answers are as clear as they were before: probably and maybe.

Professor Anthony Hilton performed six different studies to discover if the amount of germs on a piece of food was dependent on how long it remained on the floor, and his research unveiled that eating food within five seconds of it hitting the ground will expose you to less harmful bacteria.

There are some exceptions, though:

Floor type

As a whole, carpet seems to carry less bacteria than laminate or tile floors.

Food type

On floors covered in tile and laminate, dry foods such as bread harbored fewer bacteria than wet foods like pasta and sweet sticky foods. On carpeted floors, though, the amount of bacteria didn’t appear to be affected by food type.


The researchers assessed bacteria on foods left for three seconds and for 30 seconds on the ground. While food that had fallen on carpeted floors didn’t show significant alterations in bacteria levels no matter how much time it lay there, food that had been on tile and luminate for three seconds had less bacteria than food that remained on the ground for 30 seconds.

In general, carpet appeared to have more of an “antibacterial” effect on bacteria. The researchers tested all three floor types to see how long e. coli and staph bacteria could live on each, and harder surfaces allowed them to live longer. Both kinds of bacteria could survive on those floor types for a solid six days, while the levels of living bacteria dipped significantly after just half a day on carpeting.

But don’t tear apart your hardwood and put down carpeting just yet, as carpet appears to expose you to other bad stuff like flame retardants and stain- and water-repellent chemicals. Try simply mopping your hard floors at least once a week with a solution consisting of one portion vinegar and nine parts water.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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