Does the “five-second rule” really work? Clumsy eaters have long contended that fallen food is okay to eat if it’s pulled off the floor quickly, and a new study indicates they may be right. A team of British researchers looked at two common bacteria—E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus—to measure how many microbes attached to food when it was dropped on tile, linoleum, or carpet. Scientists tested foods like toast, cookies, pasta, and sticky candy, and left samples on the floor for intervals lasting from three to 30 seconds. The results: Time, flooring, and consistency of the food all contributed to the amount of bacteria transferred. Carpet kept food cleanest, and “moist” foods like noodles and candy tended to be the most infected. “Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk,” says study author Anthony Hilton of Aston University, “as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time.” But the study does indicate that the faster you pick it up, the safer that cookie is likely to be.