Banning candles on birthday cakes? The push to extinguish a popular tradition

Study raises concerns over spreading germs

DETROIT - It's the magical moment of every child's birthday party.  A circle of friends gathered around singing "Happy Birthday" as the birthday boy or girl prepares to make a wish and blow out the candles.

But some want to see that treasured tradition extinguished.

Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council came out this week with guidelines for childcare agencies that call for strict new hygiene rules.  Among the changes -- a ban on blowing out candles on a communal birthday cake.   Instead, parents are encouraged to send a separate cupcake to place a candle on, to avoid blowing germs over the cake to be shared with others.

Sound crazy?  Consider a recent study by Clemson University.  Researchers found 183 bacteria on a birthday cake before the candles were blown out.  After -- they identified nearly 3,000 bacteria.

While that definitely raises the "ick" factor, anyone who has ever seen children interact knows preschoolers swap an awful lot of germs through ordinary play, no birthday cake needed.

Critics, including the Australian Medical Association, say the new rules place "kids in a bubble."

But others, including Dr. Bert Eichold, a county health officer in Mobile, Ala., say the separate cupcake idea might be a good alternative to consider during flu season.

"Why not have your birthday candles on a cupcake or just have a candle sitting down, sing happy birthday, blow out the candle and eat the food?" said Eichold.

What do you think?  Is this a sensible precaution or another example of germaphobia?  We want to hear from you!


Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.