Does the 5-second rule really work?

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Does the 5 Second Rule Really Work?


BY MATTHEW ALSON THORNBURY

There's almost nothing worse than getting ready to take a big bite of some delicious food...and then dropping it right on the floor. But if being a kid taught you anything, it's that if you can pick it up before counting to five, it's safe to eat. I mean, it's the five second rule – everyone knows about it and it just has to be true.

Right?

Well, actually, yeah, it kind of is right. Two studies, one performed in 2007 at Clemson University and a new one from Aston University in England, show that, yes, the quicker you get to some downed food, the better chance there is of it not picking up bacteria. And if you get to it under five seconds, usually, germs probably haven't had time to transfer to your nosh.

Of course, this all depends on a variety of factors...

...first, moist foods like deli meats will become contaminated quicker than dry foods like toast. So if you drop that sandwich for more than five seconds, throw that meat out – but at least the bread's okay.

Also, the type of floor can make a huge difference in how quickly that food gets contaminated. Believe it or not, carpet is less filthy than tile or laminate floors. One study showed that Salmonella transferred from carpet in less than 1% of cases studied, while hardwood floors transferred 70 percent.

However, don't let that fool you into thinking you're just fine eating food off the floor because it doesn't take much bacteria to make you very sick. You know how small cells are? Well only 10 cells from certain types of E.coli are enough to kill you. So, don't be dropping your food all willy-nilly.

And finally, believe it or not, it turns out women are more likely than men to eat food dropped on the floor. Really.

And there you go – the real dish on the five second rule. Food on the floor for five seconds probably won't kill you – but don't use it as an excuse to just be a slob.

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