The Ig Nobel prize in Public Health went to Jillian Clarke, now a student at Howard University in Washington, for testing the validity of the idea that dropped food is safe to eat if it has spent no more than five seconds on the floor.
In tests with floor tiles deliberately contaminated with E. coli, she found that gummy bears and fudge-striped cookies picked up the bacteria in less than five seconds. However, tests on real floors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she worked failed because they had no detectable bacterial contamination – suggesting the cleaning staff might deserve their own award. Other research suggests the question is far from closed.