Food Detectives was a Food Network science show hosted by Ted Allen during the 2008 season. Ted Allen, backed by research conducted by Popular Science magazine, investigates food-related beliefs, such as the validity of the five-second rule or the effectiveness of ginger to relieve motion sickness. In addition to support from scientists such as molecular biologist Dr. Adam Ruben and Popular Science staff members, Allen is assisted on-screen by a group of "Food Techs," often-silent volunteers who are the participants in simple experiments exploring food-related myths, beliefs, practices, and folkways.

Tests and ResultsEdit

  • Can I eat something off the floor if I pick it up in 5 seconds? Bacteria will cling to food immediately. High traffic areas will lead to even more bacteria on the food.
  • How do I cool my mouth after eating spicy food? Milk and other dairy products are most effective. Avoid soda and any carbonated drinks.
  • Does baking soda remove odor in my fridge? Yes, but activated charcoal is even better.
  • How dirty is "double dipping"? Having just one person double-dip will lead to a huge increase in bacteria.
  • Can ginger really help with motion sickness? Yes, take ginger tablets 20 minutes before.
  • What is the best way to quell the tears while chopping onions? Store onions in the refrigerator to prevent its enzymes from overreacting when chopped.
  • Tastes like chicken 7 out of 8 food techs tasted 'chicken' when served guinea pig, alligator, frog, and rabbit.
  • Does blotting pizza really reduce calories? Yes, it reduces calories by 35 per slice on average (3.5 grams of oil).
  • Does blowing out candles contaminate birthday cakes? Yes, bacteria grew on the test cake greater than on the control, and even more with the greater number of candles on a cake. However, most micro-organisms in the human mouth are not harmful, as long as the candle-blower is healthy.
  • Eating carrots improves eyesight Untrue, other than eating copious amounts, and in very specific cases, such as night blindness, because of the Vitamin A.
  • Does burning your tongue cause permanent damage? Unlikely, as the tongue heals much faster than other organs.
  • Is moldy cheese okay to eat? Yes.
  • Are "dirty water hot dogs" as dirty as you think? Some are, but common sense indicated which vendor would be unsafe based on their general sanitation practices.
  • What has the most caffeine: coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks? In descending order: energy drinks, coffee (brewed), espresso, tea, soda, green tea.
  • The best way to keep ice cream from falling off the cone? Not actually answered.
  • Does MSG in food cause headaches, stomach pain, or other problems? Despite the popular myth that MSG is harmful, it is considered a safe food additive by global science. The supposed symptoms caused by MSG ingestion (headaches, stomach pain, dizziness and other physical reactions) have been rejected by toxicological scientific evaluations over the past 40 years.
  • Does drinking lots of water make your skin look better? Not answered. One subject was intentionally dehydrated drinking only 32 oz of water a day; the second subject drank 64 oz per day. The dehydrated subject had poorer skin than the properly hydrated subject.
  • Can you taste the difference between liquid-smoke-flavored baked foods and grilled foods? One subject guessed the liquid smoke, one guessed the grilled food when asked "which was grilled?"
  • Is throwing pasta against the wall is really the best way to see if it’s done cooking? No, pasta will stick before it is fully cooked.
  • Does drinking alcohol kill brain cells? No, it temporarily inhibits brain function in large quantities.
  • What causes the Mentos-diet soda reaction? The surface of a 'Mentos' has lots of small ridges and pocks which allow millions of mini-bubbles to form which then merge into larger bubbles.
  • What are some secret ingredients in natural food coloring? Many natural food colorings include crushed beetle for red tint.
  • Does turkey actually make you sleepy? Yes, but only when coupled with a high-calorie meal like those generally served at Thanksgiving.
  • Does swallowed gum stay in your stomach for seven years? No, gum will be broken up by stomach acids and pass through the system within 24 hours.
  • What is the best way to get gum out of your hair? Oil placed in hair for 20 minutes will remove the gum.
  • How unsanitary are public water fountains? As long as spigots are not touched, public fountains have low levels of bacteria because the arc the water flows out prevents it from touching the spigot. Office water coolers can be riskier because the spigot is never cleaned and they are touched by many people.
  • Will the size of your plates make you fat? Larger plates tend to make you overeat because visually you want to fill them up. Smaller plates will make you think you're having a full meal.
  • Can drinking too much water actually kill you? Yes, but only an exorbitant amount in quick succession, because it will disrupt your electrolytes.
  • Can drinking ice water burn calories? Yes, because it takes more energy to heat ice water to body temperature.
  • How much of taste is influenced by decor or elaborate menu descriptions? Fancy decor and menu give the perception of a better dining experience.
  • What is the healthiest oil to fry with? Vegetable oil with high smoking point that is changed regularly, i.e., peanut or canola oil.
  • Do wood cutting boards harbor more bacteria than plastic boards? Any board with deep grooves will harbor bacteria. Best to change boards routinely, wash in soap and hot water, and use separate boards for meat and vegetables.
  • Do nightcaps like a warm glass of milk really work? Yes, although chamomile tea can work even better.
  • How do you enjoy buffets without going overboard? Sit far from the buffet line so that its away from your line of vision.; scour the food before choosing, to see what you really want to eat.
  • Will eating a poppy-seed bagel cause someone to fail a drug test? No, although there will be an increase in their level of opiates. You can test positive after eating five poppy seed bagels or more.
  • Is it possible to eat six Saltine crackers in one minute? It is certainly difficult; the techs couldn't do it.
  • Remedies for the alcohol-induced hangover? There is no surefire way to cure a hangover, although eating a meal before and drinking water while consuming alcohol will better prevent dehydration and lessen the effects of a hangover.
  • Can cola dissolve a penny, a nail, a tooth or a housefly? None of the above, although a tooth will begin to decay within a few days. Technically, the same effect can occur with orange juice. In real life, your saliva washes down cola as you drink, although long-term drinking will lead to gradual decay.
  • How clean are lemon wedges in restaurants? 7 out of 10 lemons tested with huge amounts of bacteria.
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