LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Researchers at Ohio State University are trying to determine if a cheap and simple product like hard candy could be used to test for COVID-19.

“Who doesn’t like candy, right?” asks Christopher Simons, associate professor of food science and technology at OSU. “If you have to test something everyday, candy is a pretty good stimulus.”

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Simons leads a team that will use hard candy to detect the loss of taste and smell in populations who are at risk of getting exposed to COVID-19. It may also help find cases of the virus in otherwise asymptomatic people.

While symptoms like fever, chills, a cough and body aches vary widely among COVID-19 patients, an estimated 86 percent of people who test positive report a loss of smell, “which makes it a much better predictor, especially if it’s sudden loss,” Simons tells Ohio State News.

Simons has personal experience with COVID-19 symptoms as he lost his sense of smell when he tested positive last spring.

“With this candy, yeah, I think it would be nice, right?” he tells WSYX. “So if I’m tracking myself sort of daily, I would’ve been able to sort of see that less dramatic loss, right? And maybe that would’ve clued me in that something was going wrong.”

Eight fruit flavors of hard candies that are uniform in color will be manufactured for the study. 2,800 participants, primarily OSU students in Columbus, will be asked to sniff and consume a piece of hard candy on a daily basis for 90 days.

Participants will enter the results into an app. Those who report a sudden drop in taste or smell will get a text message encouraging them to quarantine and get a diagnostic test to confirm a COVID-19 infection.

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The $305,000 study is being funded through the National Institutes of Health and was expected to begin in early February.