Is there really a five-second rule about food on the floor?

Story highlights

  • The answer depends on how many bacteria are on the floor and are picked up by the food
  • Carpets are slightly better places to drop food than wood or tile

When you drop a piece of food on the floor, is it really OK to eat if you pick up within five seconds? This urban food myth contends that if food spends just a few seconds on the floor, dirt and germs won't have much of a chance to contaminate it. Research in my lab has focused on how food and food contact surfaces become contaminated, and we've done some work on this particular piece of wisdom.

While the "five-second rule" might not seem like the most pre