My son was about 4 when I realized that kids eat food off the ground, regardless of how loud the adults around them yell — seemingly in slow-motion — nooooo! Not wanting to waste a tasty pizza slice (not that I can blame him), my son picked up the one he’d dropped, brushed off a few specks of dirt, and went back to eating. A nearby couple speedily condemned me: “What a horrible parent, letting your kid eat food off the floor — do you know how disgusting that is?” That’s when I bent down and took a huge bite of my son’s pizza.
Now it looks like my decision was validated, because scientists have found that eating food off the floor is perfectly safe — even if you exceed the five-second rule. Eat that, mom-shamers!
Researchers at the University of Aston, in Birmingham, U.K., claim they’ve found that the five-second rule is not an urban legend and that certain foods are actually safe even after being on the floor for up to 30 minutes. Germ expert Professor Anthony Hilton from Aston University claims the rule depends entirely on the nature of the floor surface and the type of food dropped. “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,” says Hilton.
Regardless of the side you land on when it comes to this age-old debate, the study did prove certain foods fare better than others. Pasta, candy and toast with the butter side down should be snatched up and eaten within five seconds. However, certain drier, crunchier foods can be left on the floor for up to 30 minutes — like potato chips, cookies and unbuttered toast — because softer, wetter foods pick up bacteria a lot more readily than drier foods. Dropping food on carpet or rugs is also safer than on tile or laminated floors, where bacteria latch on more quickly.
So, where do my son’s five-second pizza and my parenting skills net out based on this study? Well, it looks like we’re in the clear, given that the dry side of his pizza fell on a hard surface. Thanks, science!