Admit it: At some point in your life you dropped food onto the floor, picked it up, dusted it off, and ate it. And if we had to make a guess, we’d say that you probably didn’t get sick from it. But while you most likely won’t get sick if you decide to eat something off of the floor, we wouldn’t exactly advise doing so. As National Geographic has pointed out, the “five second rule” — legendary on the playground, this rule suggests that food is safe to eat as long as it spends no more than five seconds on the floor — is basically bunk: once something hits the floor it starts picking up bacteria right away. However, some foods attract more bacteria than others. Foods that are drier, like cookies, crackers, and toast, will pick up fewer bacteria, and are generally okay to eat off of the floor. But stickier foods, like the ones below, are veritable bacteria magnets. We’re not saying that eating fallen food will make you sick every time, but these foods, once they’ve made contact with the floor, will be the definition of dirty.
Piece of steak fall off the fork as you’re bringing it to your mouth? Toss it. Slice of turkey fall out the back of your sandwich? Unclean. Wet foods pick up a lot more bacteria than dry foods.
Unwrapped candy is sticky; candy that you’ve been sucking on for a couple minutes is even stickier. It will pick up all the bacteria, dirt, sand, and hair that it’s exposed to.
Ever place a slice of American cheese on a paper plate? For some reason, it’s almost impossible to peel away. Clinging to a paper plate is one thing; adhering to a linoleum floor is another.
That stray piece of scrambled egg that fell off your fork shouldn’t find its way back into your mouth. Eggs are cheap; let it go.
While popcorn may seem dry, in reality the bulk of the popcorn we eat is coated with something buttery, greasy, and sticky. If popcorn falls onto your lap, it’s probably okay; if it falls into the crack next to your movie theater seat, it’s time to say goodbye.