Our long-held rationalization for eating a Cronut that fell to the floor just a few short seconds ago has been exploded like so many streams of food illness-related diarrhea. A new study published by the American Society for Microbiology thoroughly disproves the wishful theory of the "five second rule," concluding that food collects bacteria "instantaneously" upon falling to the ground. Bonus bacteria points for surfaces like the subway floor.
Researchers tested multiple foodstuffs including watermelon, buttered bread and gummy candy to see if factors like moisture content were significant. They found that watermelon picked up the most bacteria and gummy candy the least. "I will tell you on the record that I've eaten food off the floor," Donald W. Schaffner, one of the study's authors, told the Times. "If I were to drop a piece of watermelon on my relatively clean kitchen floor, I'm telling you, man, it's going in the compost."
The researchers also tested different surfaces, discovering that carpet transferred less bacteria to the food than surfaces like tile and stainless steel. They also concluded that time does play a factor: the longer something sat, the more bacteria it accumulated.
So will science's new discovery make people stop eating food that falls on the floor? Probably not. Invisible germs means an out of sight, out of mind mentality when it comes to what's considered "dirty" or clean. And I waited all morning for that Cronut—I'm not letting it get away.