1You’re eating cheese fries, when suddenly, a fry lands on the couch. Should you be speedy, and grab the fry before five seconds?

According to TIME.com, research shows that roughly 70 percent of females and 56 percent of males would say yes, discloses Paul Dawson, a food scientist at Clemson University. Putting the five-second rule to the test in his lab, he confessed that eating food that has touched the ground is always a risk. “I compare picking up dropped food and eating it to not wearing a seat belt,” Dawson tells. He explains that you could drive a lifetime without wearing a safety belt and never have an accident, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe not wearing one.

Dawson’s team observed how fast harmful bacteria like salmonella can transfer from wood, tile, and carpet to either dry foods (bread) or moist ones (bologna). The results showed that bacteria growth does increase depending on the length of time it has touched the floor. Also, certain food-floor combinations, especially moist food against tiles, result in the faster transfer of germs. So, it’s safe to presume that as soon as your snack falls on the ground, it’s contaminated.“I stand by the zero-second rule,” he says. “If bacteria is present on the ground, it will be transferred to your food.”

Anthony Hilton, a biomedical scientist at Aston University, together with his colleagues, conducted a similar experiment with different sickness-causing bacteria like E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The results were the same. “The majority of bacteria transfer to the food immediately on impact. The quicker you pick up your food, the fewer bacteria will transfer,” Hilton says. But he emphasizes that you should not expect that your swift rescue of your fallen chow will shield you from germs.

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What if you're eating on your desk, and the food drops on it? Is it safe to pick the food up because you don't step on the surface? Dawson says that it depends if illness-causing bacteria are present. A past study done by the University of Arizona discovered that the average office desk houses hundreds of times more germs than an average office toilet seat!

(Photo from Congoleneum Corp on Pinterest)

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