NEW BRUNSWICK — The "five-second rule" for dropping a piece of food on the ground is actually more of a less-than-a-one-second rule.

A new Rutgers University study finds that germs climb onto a piece of food the moment it hits the ground, and it's already covered in bacteria by the time you pick it up and eat it.

"We decided to look into this because the practice is so widespread," said food science professor Donald Schaffner. "The topic might appear 'light' but we wanted our results backed by solid science."

The study also found that some foods are more of a bacteria-magnet than others. Of the tested foods, watermelon pieces had the highest concentration of bacteria and gummy bears had the least.

“Bacteria don’t have legs, they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer," Schaffner said, adding that the longer amount of time the food spends on the ground, the more bacteria it will collect.

Whether you're eating watermelon or gummy bears, contamination is immediate, so it's still better to just throw it out than to try and eat it again.

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