\You've probably been religiously following the five-second rule your whole life, especially when it comes to food you really, really want to eat. But now, new research is throwing shade on the "rule" that claims your food is still clean enough to eat for five seconds after landing on the ground.
The study, which was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that bacteria can contaminate food the second it hits the ground. Basically, even if your cat-like reflexes get a cookie off the floor in less than a second, it’s still covered in gross stuff that can make you sick.
Here’s what went down in the study: Researchers dropped a bevy of foods, including watermelon cubes, strawberry gummies, and plain and buttered bread onto a bunch of different surfaces (carpet, tiled floor, stainless steel, and wood) from about five inches above the ground. Each surface was smeared with the bacteria Enterobacter aerogenes, which is similar to salmonella.
RELATED: How To Avoid Food Poisoning
Researchers left the food on each surface for various amounts of time, ranging from less than a second to 300 seconds. They also dropped every type of food on each surface for each time frame, giving researchers 2,560 specimens to work with.
Here’s what they discovered: While every piece of food picked up some of those gross germs, the longer a piece of food stayed on the ground, the more bacteria covered it. However, the type of food and surface it landed on were important factors in determining how gross it got.
Food that was wet (read: the watermelon) was covered in the most bacteria, while the gummies had the least. Tile and steel transferred more bacteria than carpet, while wood was somewhere in between.
So…while the five-second rule sounds awesome in theory, it’s probably best to just cut your losses the next time you drop food on the ground—especially if it’s wet.