It’s a part of just about every birthday celebration – you gather around the table, sing happy birthday and blow out the candles. But that tradition is coming under fire.
A study by Clemson University found there was a significant increase in bacteria in the icing after birthday cake candles were blown out.
According to the university's website, Clemson food scientist Paul Dawson and his research team investigated if bacteria are transferred to birthday cake icing when candles are blown out. The results showed a significant increase in bacteria in the icing after students blew out the candles.
“Blowing out birthday candles is generally a safe practice,” said Dawson. “But if the person blowing out the candles is ill, people may not want to eat that cake.”
In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended that schools and childcare agencies use cupcakes, instead of cakes to prevent the spread of bacteria when kids are blowing out the candles.
Posh Able Events CEO Paula Wyatt is a party planner and has organized all kinds of parties involving people blowing out candles on cakes.
"It seems like there might be some germs involved there, but it seems sad to take away the spirit of the whole thing just because someone might have a germ,” said Wyatt.
Medical experts said there is research that shows blowing out birthday candles could spread germs, but they said they don’t know how many people actually get sick.
News 13 spoke with Dr. Timothy Hendrix from Centra Care in Central Florida who said there are several germs that could be spread when someone is blowing out birthday candles.
“Upper respiratory infections, viruses, flu viruses, noroviruses, these type of things that are easily transmitted and live for several minutes or hours on surfaces. I would like to emphasis that even though we know that this happens and there is that transition, we don’t have any evidence to show that there is an increased risk and that people are getting sicker after this happens,” said Hendrix.
Wyatt said while cakes may be tradition, she’s willing to change things up if parents are concerned. “From an event planning and catering business, it’s much easier to have cupcakes because you throw them away, there is no knife, there is no serving, there is no plates, no forks, it’s cheaper and I guess if it’s more sanitary, great. Australia might be on to something.”
The Clemson University study found there were on average 3,000 bacteria on a cake after a child blew out the candles.