Whether you're eating lunch (62 percent), snacking (50 percent), eating breakfast (27 percent) or dinner (4 percent), desks and all the surfaces (keyboard, mouse, phone) can get pretty funky (translation: germy).
"For many people, multitasking through lunch is part of the average workday," said Toby Smithson, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson and registered dietitian, in a release on the survey. "While shorter lunch hours may result in getting more accomplished, they could also be causing workers to log additional sick days, as desktops hide bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness."
Wait, wait. Don't turn away. Here's the really scary part: At the University of Arizona, a 2007 study found that the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat.
"Desks are really bacteria cafeterias," said Charles Gerba, a microbiologist who's studied dirty desks, in a UA press release several years ago. "They're breakfast buffets, lunch tables and snack bars, as we spend more and more hours at the office."
"Treat your desktop like you would your kitchen table and counters at home," says Smithson. "Clean all surfaces, whether at home or work, before you prepare or eat food on them."
And wash your hands! The Desktop Dining Survey found only half of Americans say they always wash their hands before eating lunch.
"The key to preventing foodborne illness is food handling from start to finish," Smithson e-mailed Lunch Box. Keep things clean (your hands, eating surfaces, the food), watch the time ("Do not keep foods less than 2 hours outside of proper temperature"), and make sure foods are either kept below 40 degrees fahrenheit and heated above 140 degrees fahrenheit.
A few more survey nuggets:
Most workplaces have a refrigerator and microwave available to employees. Some 67 percent say they store their lunch in the refrigerator. Still:
•One in five people say they don't know if it ever (or never) gets cleaned.
•49 percent let perishable food sit out for 3-plus hours. Who cares? It can begin to spoil.
The Desktop Dining Survey was conducted in April 2011 by HealthFocus International and based on a random sample of 2,191 full-time employees who work at a desk. It's the second time the survey was conducted as part of the Home Food Safety program, a collaboration betwee the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods; the previous survey was conducted in 2003.