We've all done it. Dropped that bite we were going to eat just seconds before.
Whether five seconds, ten or thirty, is there a safe window of time to save that bite before germs are transferred?
Our Verify team researched out the science behind the familiar food notion.
Dr. Donald Schaffner, the Extension Specialist in Food Science and Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, put the rule to the test, publishing his findings in American Society for Microbiology.
As part of a study, Schaffner's team evaluated four types of food across four surfaces. Watermelon, bread with butter, plain bread and gummy candy were tested on carpet, tile, wood and stainless steel surfaces.
Contact times ranged from less than one second, five, 30 and 300 seconds.
"We essentially disproved the 5-second rule," Schaffner said. "There was no transfer time that was germ free."
In fact, Schaffner discovered that the type of food matter. With some foods, the bacteria transfer occured faster than others.
"What we discovered with watermelon, because it's so moist, it absorbed almost any bacteria on that surface. It transferred on the watermelon almost instantly," he said.
Meanwhile, gummy candy had the least transfer, according to Schaffner. Another notable finding? The surface also played a role, with carpet showing lower transfer rates.
"You're definitely better off if you drop a dry cracker on the floor," Schaffner said. "But it really depends on the nature of the floor and how much risk you're willing to take."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reinforced the risk is immediate, telling the Verify team "bacteria and other germs can cling to food immediately," leading to a risk for foodborne illness.
According to the CDC, 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year. Pregnant women, young kids, older individuals and those with weakened immune systems can be more vulnerable.
So we can verify, the 5-second rule is no rule at all. Count the seconds at your own risk.