This Is Why Blowing Out Your Birthday Candles Is Kind of Icky

Woman blowing out candles on birthday cake
By blowing out birthday candles, you can increase bacteria on a cake’s icing by 1,400 percent. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/GettyImages)

Blowing out the candles on a birthday cake is a long-standing and beloved tradition, one that never seems to get old (even if we all inevitably do). After all, what would a birthday celebration be without the whole crazy cake routine?

Well, it turns out there is just one tiny downside to it. Every time you make a wish and blow out those candles, you are also blowing an impressive array of bacteria right onto the food you’re about to serve to your party guests. Oops.

A study conducted by Clemson University researchers discovered a surprising number of bacteria on the icing of a cake that had just been blown on. Although bacteria is present in almost everything humans touch, the study hoped to address issues surrounding food safety, contamination and “raise awareness of possible health risks associated with birthday celebrations.”

What party poopers.

When a person strongly exhales (while blowing out candles), bacteria from the mouth and/or throat easily spreads into the air — and also all over any nearby icing. The report also states that humans are major contributors to indoor air bacteria and release about 37 million bacterial gene copies per hour. Just the simple act of blowing out candles increases bacteria on icing by an average of 1,479 percent. So, basically, we are all just walking, talking, bacteria-spreading germ factories.

Although some people transfer more bacteria than others (one transfer recorded a ridiculous 12,000 percent bacterial increase), study author Paul Dawson admits that “it’s not a big health concern” in an interview with The Atlantic. Because while bacteria may be more prevalent on the cake after the candles are blown out, it’s not necessarily harmful.

“Even if you did this 100,000 times, the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal,” Dawson said. A true voice of reason.

So in other words, unless the candle blower has something seriously icky and contagious like the flu, there is minimal chance of you getting sick from a slice of birthday cake. Turns out you actually can have your cake and eat it too!

What Do YOU Think?

Will you blow out the candles at your next birthday party? Are you now wary of bacteria on birthday cakes, or does it not concern you? Let us know in the comments below!

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