Scientific Fact: The 5 Second Rule

toastA research team at Aston University in England were recently bored and looking to spend some grant money. If you’re not a regular reader you don’t know that this usually results in the study of subjects that probably don’t need studying. This time around they decided to study the 5-second rule (also known as the 3-second rule and the 10-second rule depending on your house rules.)

To finally put an end to the age-old edibility debate, a team of students led by microbiology professor Anthony Hilton looked at the transfer of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (or the bacteria that causes Staph infection) from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate, and tiled surfaces) to a variety of foods (toast, pasta, cookies, ham, dried fruit, and last but not least a “sticky dessert”). Each tested round of contact lasted between three and 30 seconds.

In what will surely be validating news to five-second rule champions everywhere, the researchers found that “time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food.”

The report states that it can still be dangerous to eat food off the floor but my personal guess is that this only applies to university floors. They all seem to be covered in E. coli and Staphylococcus, at least those are the germs they always test with. I still think I’ll keep my rule; 1 minute for dry foods on a floor cleaned within recent memory and you just have to beat the dog to it for all other foods.