We at DFC have had friends celebrating a couple birthdays recently, and I only just realized that it’s been a long while since any of us have blown out candles on a cake! I guess it’s something that grown ups don’t really do anymore, and I briefly felt sad about it — until I read about this new study, published recently in the Journal of Food Research. A group of scientists has determined that the act of blowing out candles on a birthday cake sprays the festive confection with a staggering amount of bacteria.
They did this by undertaking the most charmingly crafty experiment I’ve ever heard of, preparing:
“two test birthday ‘cakes’ made of Styrofoam which they then spread with real icing […] and decorated with exactly 17 candles. Before having volunteers blow out the candles on both cakes, they had all of them smell and consume a piece of hot pizza — ‘to simulate a meal-dessert sequence.’ Afterwards, they compared the amount of bacteria present on each cake surface, and then repeated the whole exercise three times”
This experiment found that not only was the natural bacteria population of these cakes increased by a whopping 1400%, but the range of the bacteria was increased by a factor of 100, by the force of the puff.
Thankfully, the scientists say, it’s not all bad. As we have learned from recent research into the population of healthy bacteria in our bodies — our microbiome — exposure to new bacteria, care of little Timmy’s overenthusiastic candle snuffing, can actually boost our immune systems. It’s when little Timmy’s sick, though, that the researchers warn us to skip the cake, and the cold.