Ask The Pharmacist: Birthday cake is a health hazard
We’re programmed to blow the candles out on birthday cakes and then enjoy the dessert. How splendid! But you realize people are spitting on it, right? For years I’ve ignored this one gruesome detail at birthday parties. If you’re not the blower, you better wish for a strong immune system and a pack of probiotics.
For goodness sakes, it’s gross but we overlook it don’t we … now there’s a study published in the Journal of Food Research, which has discovered that blowing out birthday candles results in 1,400 percent more disgusting germs on the cake’s frosting, than if you don’t blow those candles out. I’ll have a slice of birthday cake with a Z-Pak please.
Studies only test regular candles, so don’t get me started on those trick candles which turn your party into the pneumonic plague.
I can see you rolling your eyes from here, worried about how silly or anti-social you will appear for not bonding with the birthday boy and all that splattering spit on the communal cake. Maybe you can make an exception for your adorable toddler, or your spouse, but not for a stranger, yuck!
Here’s my God’s honest truth: If I was at a restaurant and the waiter came over and blew on my food, I’d honestly get up and leave. I wouldn’t even be nice about it. I’d leave a terrible Yelp review.
Are you with me on this? Are we germaphobes or just precautious, dare I say intelligent?
The older you are the worse the phlegm flying. Forget 8 year-old Johnny, consider 88 year-old Edith. By the time she’s done blowing, you might have to pick her dentures out of the icing. (Yes I’ll take a slice if it’s chocolate, hold the wisdom teeth.)
Okay, okay, I’m completely out of my mind about this, but just for a moment humor me. You have about 650 different species in your mouth. Go just 24 hours without brushing, and 20 billion germs becomes 100 billion. Here’s what’s in there (and also on your cake):
Rhinovirus: associated with the common cold.
Herpes simplex type I: this one causes fever blisters, aka “cold sores.”
Influenza: This is usually the bug behind the flu.
Streptococcus: many diseases including strep throat.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans: A mouthful huh? It causes gum disease.
Clostridium: A very dangerous germ causing severe diarrhea.
The study was simple. Researchers spread cake frosting onto a Styrofoam base (to mimic cake) and then spread foil over the frosting. They pushed birthday candles through the foil, down into the Styrofoam ‘cake’ base.
Then the scientists rounded up people who were interested in eating pizza. I am dead serious.
After consuming pizza (and probably beer but I can’t confirm that yet), the test participants blew out the lit candles. Since pizza is my second favorite food behind sushi, I would have gladly volunteered for this research, but no one bothered to ask me. Regardless, frosting samples plated to determine bacterial growth. The contamination level was nothing to celebrate.
Would you like more information as well as safer alternatives for birthday candles? If so, sign up for my newsletter at suzycohen.com and I’ll email the extended version of this article to you.
At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I’m going to email Betty Crocker now and ask them to formulate antibacterial cake frosting, and then pay me royalties. This will cut down on the obsessive thoughts of consuming all those germs at your next office birthday party.
Oy! This whole conversation reminds me of the old English proverb, “You can't have your cake and eat it too.”
Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.