The study, conducted surreptitiously at more than 100 offices across the country, presented office workers with such meals as haggis, tripe and soft-boiled fetal duck, which is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and the Philippines. In each case, the meal was left in a well-traveled area - lunchroom, conference room, on a file cabinet, etc. - along with a sign such as Tripe - Please Eat!
"The results were fascinating," said Dr. Francis Spitznagel of the Pew Center. "No matter what the time of day, in every case, the dish was clean in less than an hour." Spitznagel noted that typically it took no longer than 15 minutes, but that a small lag time on the fetal duck skewed the average slightly.In the second phase of the study, food was left without any type of identifying sign. "And we made sure it was also completely unrecognizable as foodstuff," said Dr. Spitznagel, noting that in one case they left a metal pot full of the pink meat paste used to make chicken nuggets - also known as mechanically separated poultry - along with a spoon and a stack of Styrofoam bowls.
"It was gone in an hour and a half," said Spitznagel.
The Pew study showed that employees in all professions were prone to eating food found around the office, although some were especially susceptible. For instance, print journalists were the most likely to suffer trample injuries while trying to beat their fellow workers to the last slice of crumb cake.
"Let's face it, we never know where our next meal is going to come from," said Karl Fender, a sports reporter for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., where six employees have been hospitalized during free snack stampedes in the last year alone.