Blowing Out Candles Really Does Leave Bacteria All Over Cake

kid blowing out birthday cake

Just when you thought your kid's school potluck was the germiest food-centric event in your future, science goes and confirms our worst fear: Blowing out birthday candles really does leave behind a disturbing amount of bacteria on a cake


We're talking 1,400 percent more bacteria, people. If that's not enough of a reason to switch to individual cupcakes with the birthday boy or girl eating the one holding the candles, we're out of ideas. 

A Journal of Food Research study is the bearer of the bad news. Their team constructed a foil and Styrofoam "cake," then spread frosting over the top of said foil. Candles were placed atop the frosting in true birthday fashion. Then, study participants who had just feasted on pizza (traditional kids' party fare) blew out the candles. 

More from CafeMom: 10 Birthday Cakes Almost Too Crazy To Eat

The frosting samples were tested, producing the icky findings. 

However, if you can get past the concept of a ton of bacteria being blown onto that otherwise delicious-looking buttercream (we're struggling), there's apparently little risk in actually getting sick from the dessert. In fact, Paul Dawson, who coauthored the study and is a food safety professor at Clemson University, told the Atlantic to take the news with a grain of salt.

"It's not a big health concern in my perspective," he said. "In reality if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal."

Given the kid-friendly locales where most of the parties we attend these days occur, we're guessing it's far more likely to pick up something from a ball pit (shudder) or arcade games. Still, we'll feel a little less guilty the next time we opt out of birthday cake and head home for our private stash of canned frosting and a spoon.

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