A new study from Aston University in Birmingham, England say that the five second rule really does make a difference in terms of food safety. That's right. Pick it up before five seconds and it's safe to eat.

A team of students led by microbiology professor Anthony Hilton looked at how the transfer of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (or the bacteria that causes Staph infection) from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate, and tiled surfaces) to a variety of foods (toast, pasta, cookies, ham, dried fruit, and "sticky dessert").

Each tested round of contact lasted between three and 30 seconds.

Researchers found that "time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food". But be cautious. The type of flooring will also play a big role. If you dropped food on a carpet it is least likely to pick up bacteria, and food that sits on a hardwood floor for over five seconds is guaranteed to pick up something unpleasant.

If you drop moist food, forget it. Move on.

Hilton notes:
Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth.
Whatever it is, don't drop your food. I hear it's tastier that way. [Aston University via NY Daily News]