How long can you leave something on the floor before you eat it?

When it comes to how long you can leave food on the floor and still eat it, most Brits stick to the ‘five second rule’, according to research (Picture: Getty)

We’ve all done – been about to take a bite of that delicious piece of food in your hand and, oops, you drop it.

But how long can you leave food to sit on the floor and still safely eat it?

It seems it’s not just about how long it stays there, but what surface you drop it on to.

The topic is the latest subject up for discussion in Britain is a Nation Of…. – a new podcast by Yahoo News UK.

Listen to the full episode of Britain is a nation of… below

According to YouGov Omnibus statistics shared on the podcast, only one in three Brits would refuse to eat something that has fallen on to the floor.

And when it comes to the tipping point of when people see it as acceptable to eat something from the floor, it seems that five seconds is ‘the rule’.

Food on the floor

According to the poll,  when people were asked how long they would leave something on the floor and still eat it, a third (32%) said they wouldn’t eat it at all, but the next highest proportion was 16% of people who said they would leave it for five seconds.

One in ten (11%) people would eat something that had been on the floor for more than 10 seconds.

When is it okay to eat food off the floor?

Research carried out by Anthony Hilton, Professor of Microbiology at Aston University, in 2014,  said that as long as food isn’t really dirty or obviously contaminated its usually safe to eat.

The study found that the longer the food is on the floor the more likely it is to be contaminated.

The type of flooring also has an effect, with contamination the least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces.

The reason Brits are happy to eat food that has been on the floor and could potentially risk their health could be down to ‘heuristics’ – basically coming up with a rule of thumb that allows people to make day-to-day decisions quickly and easily.

To hear more unpacking of statistics about British people, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, Acast, or Spotify to listen while on the go.