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The Science Behind The Five-Second Rule

June 16, 2014, 6:00 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

The Science Behind The Five-Second Rule

Chances are you've done it — dropped food on the floor, picked it up within five seconds, and ate it.

Joel Fredrikson and Matt Styles were enjoying coffee and conversation when ...

"I dropped some of my muffin on the floor. I drop a lot of food on the floor," Fredrikson said.

Fredrikson says he debated whether to pick up the pastry.

"If it was bigger piece of the muffin, I definitely would have," Fredrikson said.

But like many of us, Fredrikson says he has obeyed the five-second rule.

"If it's really good, and it's expensive food, you got to go for it," Fredrikson said.

Dr. Keri Orstad says it's not the worst thing in the world. She points to a recent study where researchers found that if moist food was almost immediately retrieved from the floor, there were fewer bacteria on the food.

"With those moist things, the longer it sits there the more it's going to collect," Orstad said.

But there's not much to the five-second rule when it comes to dry foods.

"Most things when they hit, that's when they catch things, so there's basically a zero second rule. It hit, or it didn't," Orstad said.

Believe it or not — whether the floor is hardwood or carpet also makes a difference.

"You are actually less likely to catch things on carpet than you are on a hard surface--probably because of the way the fibers are. It's not making contact with it on the full surface of the food," Orstad said.

Of course, you also want to pay attention to how clean the floor is.

"Obviously, if you are in the bathroom, I wouldn't recommend picking food off the floor. Somewhere that's a little cleaner probably is okay," Orstad said.

"It depends on how good the food is too. There are certain things like french fries--big deal," Fredrikson said.

Fredrikson also admits he's less likely to eat food off the floor in public because whether or not the five-second rule is legit, it's not the best table manners.

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