There's no reason to waste a perfectly good Cheeto just because it dropped on the kitchen floor, right? The "5-second-rule" makes it fair game if you can swipe it up fast enough (this doesn't apply for liquids or foods with floor fuzz stuck to them.) But, is that errant piece of chocolate really safe after it's mixed with the bacteria-laden mud from your shoe?
Scientists at Clemson University validate what we've always known—the longer the food stays on the ground, the more bacteria-infested it becomes. However, the team also found that 99% of bacteria was transferred onto food within the first 5 seconds. Bad news for the 5 second rule.
The scientists tested two different kinds of foods, bologna and bread, on three different kinds of surfaces: wood, tile, and carpet. In 5 seconds, wet bologna picked up a tiny bit more bacteria than dry bread. But, as it turns out, it matters less which kind of food you drop and more where you drop the food. Place determines not only how much bacteria but also what kind of bacteria get stuck on your munchies. Place matters.
Wood and tile were more effective at transferring bacteria than carpet, probably because they're smoother and have more area to touch your bologna sandwich. Certain germ-infested corners of your house give higher risk of making you ill like around your toilet and garbage can. That's why your dining room is separate from your kitchen and bathroom in the first place. But, there's some good news.
Unless you're floor is littered with garbage and dog poop, chances of your food landing in a super germ-infested area in your house is slim. That's why you mop every once in a while. Of course, any time any bacteria is transferred, there is risk of gastrointestinal sickness. But, if it's been a while since your last spring cleaning, you definitely don't want to take the 5-second-chance.