Objective: To test the urban myth that surplus chocolate Easter Bunnies are re-packaged as Santa Clauses for the following Christmas holiday season.
Design: Prospective radiographic cohort study of seasonal chocolate figurines, supplemented by anonymous 5-item questionnaire survey of belief in the re-wrapping myth (Generic Risk Items Noted by Chocolate consumers in Health care settings; GRINCH).
Setting: Two tertiary referral trauma centres in Germany (Berlin and Duisburg).
Participants: Eighteen chocolate Easter Bunnies and 15 chocolate Santa Clauses from different manufacturers purchased during 2020; 502 randomly selected people passing through the entrance halls of the two hospitals during 16 September - 12 October 2020.
Main outcome measures: Whole body computed tomography (WBCT) images of chocolate Easter Bunnies and Santa Clauses assessed by four independent, board-certified radiologists using a visual contour resemblance scale (CRS); survey participants' views on statements related to the re-wrapping myth.
Results: Expert examiners clearly distinguished the WBCT images of chocolate Easter Bunnies and Santa Clauses; the mean difference in CRS was 84.2 points (95% CI, 78.5-90.0 points), with excellent inter-observer agreement (mean intra-class correlation coefficient, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.99-1.00). A total of 214 survey participants (43%) disagreed and 145 (29%) agreed with the proposition that seasonal chocolate figurines are re-packaged and re-sold the following season.
Conclusion: Although about one-third of our survey respondents did not rule out the possibility of seasonal sweets being re-used, WBCT imaging found no similarity between chocolate foil-wrapped Easter and Christmas figurines, providing solid evidence against this urban myth. Chocolate Santa Clauses are unlikely to pose a significant threat to hospital food hygiene requirements.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN16847363 (prospective).
Keywords: Computed tomography; Food quality; Food safety; Humor; Hygiene; Patient safety; Surveys and questionnaires.
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