Birthday bummer: Blowing out cake candles spreads bacteria

Birthday bummer: Blowing out cake candles spreads bacteria

Let’s start by noting researchers insist the following news isn’t as bad as it sounds. To be sure, it sounds pretty bad. And it involves something just about every one of us has done at some point in our lives: blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

Doing so apparently spreads bacteria. And lots of it. In fact, researchers at Clemson University say blowing out the candles increases bacteria on cake frosting by 1,400 percent. Who wants the first piece of cake now? That’s an average number. In one experiment, bacteria increased 120 times.

The experiment to measure this was fairly simple. Volunteers smelled and ate a piece of pizza to simulate an actual birthday party. They then blew out candles on a test cake — a round piece of Styrofoam covered with frosting and candles. Afterward, the frosting was processed and tested for bacteria.

Clemson researchers, however, aren’t trying to ruin anyone’s birthday cheer. They say this really isn’t a big health concern. Our mouths, after all, overflow with mostly harmless bacteria. One researcher noted you could probably have a slice of 100,000 cakes whose candles have been blown out at 100,000 birthday gatherings without ever getting sick. What this does to your waistline, however, is something scientists didn’t address.

Researchers offer one sensible lesson from their work: It’s probably best to decline a slice of cake when the candle blower is obviously sick.

Inventors, however, are already on the case. One patent describes a protective cake cover with holes for candles.

A better bet might be simply wishing for good health for you and your friends when extinguishing those candles.

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