Would you like a piece?

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Have you ever thought about
what happens to the surface
of a birthday cake
after
the candles have been blown out?


Multiple times?
Have you ever seen such a cake unappealing?


Before you read.

(1) Which one is more sugary?
icing
frosting

(2) Which one is fluffier?
frosting
icing

(3) Blowing out the candles over the icing surface can result in
1400% more bacteria
100% more bacteria
250% more bacteria

(4) Some people blow on a cake and they transfer no bacteria, whereas the others transfer a lot.
true
false

(5) Since there is no way to protect the cake from candle-blowing bacteria growth, the best practice is not to blow them at all.
false
true

(5) After seeing the results of the study, professor Dawson strongly recommends we stop blowing out the candles.
false
true

Blowing out the candles over the icing surface resulted in 1400% more bacteria compared to icing not blown on. Due to the transfer of oral bacteria to icing by blowing out birthday candles, the transfer of bacteria and other microorganisms from the respiratory tract of a person blowing out candles to food consumed by others is likely.

On average, blowing out the candles increased the amount of bacteria on the frosting by 14 times. But in one case, it increased the amount of bacteria by more than 120 times.

“Some people blow on the cake and they don’t transfer any bacteria. Whereas you have one or two people who really for whatever reason … transfer a lot of bacteria.”

Paul Dawson

Still, says Dawson, birthday parties should not be ruined. “It’s not a big health concern in my perspective,” he says. “In reality if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal.” Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, most of them not harmful. If birthday cakes significantly contributed to the spread of deadly diseases, it’d be obvious by now given the ubiquity of the practice. Dawson says he’d probably avoid the cake if the candle-blower were clearly sick, but that’s just common sense.

Since doing this study, he’s heard from people who have thought quite deeply about germ-proofing the birthday candle blowing process though. A patent, for example, exists for a “Sanitary birthday cake cover and candle system,” consisting of a cake holder and cover with holes for candles.

Paul Dawson is a professor of food safety at Clemson University and one of the authors of the study.

How much do you understand?

(1) Due to the transfer of oral bacteria to icing by blowing out birthday candles, the transfer of bacteria and other microorganisms from the respiratory tract of a person blowing out candles to food consumed by others is likely.
This sentence suggests that…
it is reasonable to expect more bacteria on a cake after blowing out the candles
it is reasonable to expect more bacteria on a cake after blowing out the candles
it could be reasonable to expect more bacteria on a cake after blowing out the candles

(2) Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, most of them not harmful.
“teeming with bacteria” means:
full of
a lot of
a fairly large number

(3) If birthday cakes significantly contributed to the spread of deadly diseases, it’d be obvious by now given the ubiquity of the practice.
This sentence means…
Since blowing out candles is a regular practice across the globe, we would have by now realised its contribution to people getting seriously ill.
We have realised that the practice of blowin out the candles is somewhat risky.
Given the fact that a considerable number of people end up in hospital after parties, we have realised that blowing out candles is not such a risk-free practice as we used to believe.

(4) A patent, for example, exists for a “Sanitary birthday cake cover and candle system,”
“sanitary” means:
relating to the ways that dirt, infection, and waste are removed, so that places are clean and healthy for people to live in
healthful – likely to make you healthy
decontaminated – what we have when dangerous substances are removed