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How Many Seconds Is It OK to Leave Food On the Floor Before Eating It?

A scientist said the five-second rule is legit, but we thought we'd ask some non-experts for The Truth.

(Top photo: a brownie in the grass)

Remember the five-second rule, from childhood and also all the years that followed? Turns out it's scientifically sound, according to germ expert Professor Anthony Hilton, who told attendants of The Big Bang Fair – a science, technology, engineering and maths event in Birmingham, UK – that "obviously food covered in visible dirt shouldn't be eaten, but as long as it's not obviously contaminated, the science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor".


An expert says it's safe. However, we are of course living in the post-expert age. So will this news make any difference to the general public? To find out we went out and asked a few of them about their take on the five-second rule.

Hey, do you know what the five second rule is?
Woman on a bike: Oh yeah, of course. That's a myth. Wait, people believe that's true?

But it depends on a lot of things, like the environment that you throw it in, what you throw, how much you like what you throw….

Say there wasn't a dog heavily panting beneath us and I threw this brownie on the floor, would you eat it? I don't like brownies, but if you threw an apple I would totally eat it. Inside and outside we're made of bacteria. It's weird to think that we're clinically clean, because we're an organism like everything else here. We're all bacteria.

Hello. Would you eat something if it had only been on the floor for five seconds?
Woman with dogs: It depends on where it was.

Would you eat a brownie off this grass?
No, there's lots of bees here and dog feet.

Would you eat it off a kitchen floor?
It depends – if it's my kitchen then I know what's been on the floor, but if it's someone else's then I don't know.


If I chucked a brownie on the floor right now, would you eat it?
Bench man: I would, yeah.

Does it depend on the surface?
If there was all gravel on it and that, then no, I wouldn't eat it. But if you dropped it on a smooth surface, then yeah.


If I chucked it on the grass now would you eat it?
Not now – I've just had chips.

Hello. Do you have any opinions on the five second rule?
Blanket man: When I was about eight, or something, I was playing football and I had that rule. I dropped a crisp on the floor, but when I picked it up it wasn't the crisp I put in my mouth, but a cigarette butt. It was really gross and I always remember the taste – like, ughhhh. Since then I've tended not to pick things up off the floor.

Would you eat one of these delicious shop-bought brownies off the ground if it had only been there for five seconds?
No, I'm not eating brownies and sweet food at the moment.

Would you eat an apple?
Depends what mood I was in.

Are you in the mood now?
No, I don't think I am.

Okay then.

Would you apply the five second rule to this brownie?
Dreadlock Man: If you drop it on the grass I think it's alright for five seconds. But if you drop it on the tarmac… that's like a poison; there's too much diesel in it.

Where's the limit with the kind of food you'd eat off the floor?
Well, sauce and liquids and stuff would catch all the bad things off the ground.

If I throw the brownie the floor right now will you eat it?

What about if we just gave you one?
Ah, of course, yes.