What Happens When You Blow Out Birthday Candles Is Really Gross, Study Finds

What did you wish for the last time you blew out the candles on a birthday cake? A million dollars? To meet the love of your life? Hopefully, it wasn’t good health, because the minute you blew those babies out you sacrificed that for everyone. A study from a professor of food safety at Clemson University has shown that blowing out birthday candles (even when you didn’t see any spit) increases the bacteria on the cake by 1,400%. Which is really stomach churningly terrible.

Paul Dawson, the lead author of the study, spoke to The Atlantic to clarify some of his findings. The study was set up without an actual cake. He and his students frosted a piece of foil on cake-sized styrofoam. Then (after eating pizza to simulate an actual birthday party), they stuck candles in it and blew. Afterwards, they diluted the frosting in sterile water and spread it on agar plates to watch for bacteria growth.

On average, the bacteria increased about 14 times its amount after blowing on the frosting, though, according to Dawson, that number varied based on the person. One particularly dirty subject, with whom no one should make out with ever and I insist we get pictures released of, increased the surface bacteria by 120 times. “Some people blow on the cake and they don’t transfer any bacteria,” Dawson told The Atlantic. “Whereas you have one or two people who really for whatever reason … transfer a lot of bacteria.”

It all sounds really terrible, but Dawson insists that the actual health risk is very low. Which begs the question of why it had to be brought to my attention at all. I WOULD HAVE BEEN HAPPIER NOT KNOWING. “It’s not a big health concern in my perspective,” Dawson said. “In reality if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal.” So you’re probably safe chowing down on a cake that was spit upon by the birthday boy or girl. Emphasis on probably. But now that I know these statistics, I’m probably not going to be able to do it. Instead, the next time I go to a birthday party, I’m going to suggest we all just all line up one by one to french kiss our birthday friend instead. That honestly grosses me out a little less than spit cake.