Just about everything has changed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, including the way that we celebrate birthdays; some are lucky to host intimate celebrations outside in a backyard or an empty park, while others get together over Zoom, or make the best of a "drive-by" party. But most parties aren't complete without a sweet birthday cake, singing, and blowing out candles — all activities that pose some COVID-19 risk on their own — and one dentist in Florida has thought of a small solution to make birthdays a bit sweeter.
According to reports from NBC-affiliate 9News in Colorado, William Kay, DMD, a Boca Raton-based dentist who specializes in prosthetic dentistry, has created what he calls the Top It Cake Shield to help prevent germs and spit from potentially ending up on your party's dessert. As a grandfather of four, Kay has previously stewed over the fact that invisible germs and respiratory droplets may end up collecting on a cake's icing after one blows out their birthday candles — and he's not the only one who has seemingly obsessed over this, either.
Per the product's website, the Top It Cake Shield was initially inspired by research spearheaded by scientists at Clemson University's Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences, directly analyzing how blowing out candles may contaminate desserts. The study in question found that blowing out candles on a cake resulted in "1400% more bacteria" found on these cakes' outer icing compared to those that were not blown on. "The transfer of bacteria and other microorganisms from the respiratory tract of a person blowing out candles to food consumed by others is likely," the study's authors concluded.
Those who are self-proclaimed germaphobes may already be familiar with cake coverings — products have been popping up for years, including ideas on platforms like Indiegogo. The Top It Cake Shield in particular is made from Food and Drug Administration-approved recycled polystyrene, according to its website, and it comes in three different sizes; a shield made for quarter-sheet cakes, another for round cakes up to 10 inches in diameter, and a single birthday cake slice. The $15 cake covers ($5 for the slice cover) contain sides that overlay and snap together, sealing the cake inside — and birthday candles are inserted into the shields' top flat base, rather than into the cake itself.
It's important to note that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that "foodborne exposure to the virus is not known to be a route of transmission," and that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that leads to a COVID-19 diagnosis) is mainly spread by prolonged close contact. A birthday party in itself might be decidedly more dangerous, as guests may be unknowingly sick and spreading germs to others — let alone the act of singing "Happy Birthday", which is also associated with more viral respiratory discharge, which is especially worrisome in inside spaces.
If you're already planning a socially distanced birthday celebration, however, the Top It Cake Shield might provide you extra peace of mind if you don't want to skip a magical candle moment. But remember, while the covering protects the cake, it will not protect people or other objects from being hit with potential germs, so it's best to maintain your distance when blowing out the candles (if you can do it outside while also distancing, that's even better).
The Top It Cake Shield is taking pre-orders now, and expects to mail its first shipments to customers in early October.
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