The truth about the ‘five-second rule’

Caitlin McCormack
Shine OnMay 23, 2012
woman eating popcorn on the floor
woman eating popcorn on the floor

If you've ever used the infamous 'five-second rule' to justify nibbling that last morsel of delicousness you accidentally dropped on the floor, you might want to hold on to your stomachs.

As the folks over at Today.com found, most foods don't in fact stand up to the urban legend that says foods on the floor for five seconds or less are safe to eat, as they won't have picked up germs in that short time.

As the Huffington Post reports, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University examined cooked pasta, ham, a biscuit, bread with jam and dried fruit that had been dropped on the floor for varying lengths of time.

They found foods with higher salt or sugar content are less likely to pick up bacteria.

[See also: Immune-boosting myths, busted]

"Both the ham, a salty product, and the sugary bread and jam fared well in the test. When retrieved from the floor within three seconds, the foodstuffs showed little sign of bacterial growth," reported The Daily Mail.

"The dried fruit and cooked pasta, on the other hand, showed signs of klebsiella after three seconds — a  bacteria which can potentially lead to a wide range of diseases such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, septicaemia and soft tissue conditions."

The folks from Mythbusters even put this myth to the test, finding that foods do in fact pick up germs off the floor no matter how long they were left there.

I don't think I'd eat dropped ham or jam off the floor, but I do remember the good ol' days of excursion camp, where you'd eat anything even if it fell in the dirt — because that was the only food you'd packed for 10 days and you needed the calories.

Don't forget that when it comes to food safety you shouldn't take chances, especially if you're young, elderly, immuno-compromised or pregnant. As the old adage goes, 'when in doubt, throw it out.'

Do you follow the 'five-second rule'? Will this research change your mind about it?

See more common health myths debunked in the video below.

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