We've all gone through the heartbreak of making the world's tastiest piece of peanut butter toast, only to drop it on the floor before the first bite. But how you deal with that hurt depends on whether or not you buy into the five-second rule. Do you quickly pick it up and eat it like it never happened, or do you accept it's now inedible and move on?
To help you make a more informed decision, the video team over at Business Insider has done the background research for us, and it's not great news for all of us rooted in the "it's still good" camp.
While pretty much every surface is covered in bacteria, there are a few things that affect how readily that bacteria ends up on our food. For starters, some strains of bacteria produce a slimy biofilm when they come in contact with a surface, which helps them all stick together better and form a giant colony. That's good news for the bacteria, but bad news for us, because this biofilm also makes it easier for them to transfer onto our snacks. Similarly, wet food has also been shown to pick up more bacteria than dry food.
But what role does time play in all of this? As Kevin Reilly and the Business Insider team explain in the video, Research has shown that wet food that's in contact with the floor for 3 seconds has 10 times less bacteria than food that's been on the ground for 30 seconds. So, in theory, you're greatly reducing your risk of food poisoning if you get in there quick.
But in practice, that doesn't make 3-second food safe. Because the reality is that while some species, such as E. coli and Salmonella, require hundreds or thousands of bacteria in order to make you sick, other bugs such as the diarrhoea-inducing Shigella only need you to ingest 10 of them.
Watch the video above to find out what that means for all our fallen treats, and how to know whether to risk eating them or not. After all, an informed choice is always the best kind.