You’ve probably heard about the five second rule so many times. It is used to justify eating food that has dropped on the floor – no matter if it is a piece of toast, roast meat, or even sweets. Most people who talk about don’t have the facts to back the claim up as it is generally a feeling of optimism. However, scientists studied this five second rule and confirmed what many believed in.

Pick Your Food Up

Aston University’s professor and germ expert, Anthony Hilton, stated that there is a very low chance that food picked up bacteria after spending just a few seconds on the floor. This though is only applicable in an indoor floor, not when you’re outside since you can easily see that the food is contaminated with dirt. Obviously, at this point, you shouldn’t eat the dropped food. So the short answer as to whether or not you can eat food that has been on the floor for a few seconds will depend on the type of floor where it was dropped.

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The Truth about Food and Germs

It is true that germs can transfer to your dropped food from the floor. However, this does not mean we should be panicking about it. In fact, a survey with 2,000 participants found that 79% of the respondents admitted to eating food they dropped on the floor for a few seconds.

A survey with 2,000 participants found that 79% of the respondents admitted to eating food they dropped on the floor for a few seconds / PicHelp

There are other studies that tested the germ transfer between the food and the floor. One involved a high school senior who reported her research to a University of Illinois scientist. The student who was in an internship swabbed the floors in the lab, dormitory, hall, and cafeteria of the university. According to the scientist, she was surprised at how there were just few microorganisms. The second result showed the same, which means that the floors swabbed for the tests were clean microbiologically.

What Type of Floor is Safe?

As mentioned, if it is an indoor floor, you can most likely pick up the dropped food and eat it. If it is outdoors – even if the ground is grassy – you should never pick it up. Most indoor floors are fine, but here are some things to consider:

  • The floor is dry.
  • It has been disinfected recently and regularly.
  • You know it is a clean floor.
  • It has been tested to be free from salmonella, E coli, and listeria or other pathogens.
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Pathogens mentioned above cannot live without moisture. If the floor is moist, even when the food appears to be clean, it’s best not to eat it.


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