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Kids sharing birthday cake risky business, government body says

Posted by: Ellen Feely | 6 February, 2013 - 9:55 AM
Communal birthday cakes for kids thing of the past under new government health guidelines. (Photo: Gary Schafer)

Children in childcare celebrating birthdays by blowing out candles and then have the same cake served up to their friends could be a thing of the past if a federal government body is to get their way.

New guidelines issued by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggest parents either provide separate cupcakes for each child ‘to prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles’.

But the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for the ‘injection’ of common sense.

LISTEN: AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton with Ross and John

"I think that healthy children are healthy (and) they should be able to do healthy things," AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton told Ross and John.

"They should be able to share a birthday cake and blow out some candles."

3AW Breakfast’s Ross Stevenson thought the NHMRC’s guideline was preposterous.

"What’s the difference between me going to see my 85-year-old emphysemic uncle on the occasion of his birthday and him blowing out his candles, and the whole family having a slice of it," he said.

However Ross drew the line on false teeth contaminating a birthday cake: “If Aunty Grace's teeth land in the middle of the eight of 88, I don't think I'm going to be too keen.”

The new guidelines are perhaps a less arduous task for parents to abide by, with the 2005 guidelines suggesting parents ‘cover the cake with transparent plastic film or greaseproof paper’.

”The candles can be inserted through the covering and disposed of after the candles have been blown out and have cooled,” the guidelines stated.

Dr Hambleton said it was important for children to be exposed to germs in order to build up immunity.

"We've changed our views very early in life to say, well, maybe we should be exposing children to antigens so that their body can build up some immunity,” he said.

"Playing in the dirt, getting outside, getting dirty, having fun, actually that's good for us.

"We have to have a normal life and we have to have normal exposure to each other."

Child and adolescent psychologist and Neil Mitchell program regular contributor Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said the guidelines were over-the-top.

LISTEN: Dr Michael Carr-Gregg speaks with Neil Mitchell

"I think the NHMRC have just shown themselves to be completely out-of-touch with reality today," he said.

"We don't want these childcare centres to be turned into hospitals.

"Can you imagine the strain that this will put on the centre staff in trying to keep everything absolutely spotless?"

Dr Carr-Gregg said children exposure to infections was integral in building immunity.

"We know that kids get seven to eight infections during their childhood that builds immunity," he said.

"One of the reasons it's thought why we've got so many allergies and so many food sensitivities now is the over-use of these antibacterial cleaning products."

LISTEN: AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton speaks with 3AW Breakfast:

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Blog comments Your Say

  • Eddy has done a magnificent job exposing the silliness surrounding this ban, he is absolutely right, apparently when I was a toddler I would put dirt into my mouth while playing outside, my mother took me to the doctor as she was concerned, but he advised her that all it put do was stimulate my immune system, and to this day I have been very fortunate enjoying very good health so maybe the immune system did get well stimulated.

    Jan Monday 18 March, 2013 - 11:30 AM
  • This is further proof that there are people who have nothing to do.

    Lukew Wednesday 20 February, 2013 - 12:42 AM
  • I would be more worried about people putting sparklers on cakes and spraying iron residue all over them before they eat them.

    Ian Montgomery Tuesday 19 February, 2013 - 12:34 PM
  • Why is this news... from birth to 5 I never saw any early childhood professional let my child blow the candles out on cake that was to be eaten by all. Most centres I saw using a wooden cake with real candles stuck in to the top with play doh. They all used their commonsense and got to eat their cake too.

    Sofia Friday 8 February, 2013 - 9:01 PM
  • The most dangerous cake of them all is the wedding cake!

    Jillian Wednesday 6 February, 2013 - 2:21 PM
  • Why does Australia have the highest incidence of allergy based disorders. How come Africa has almost no similar conditions? How come India has almost no similar conditions. The correlation between allergy based disorders and over- cleanliness in western societies is medically proven. The harsher the biological conditions are, the stronger the immune system becomes. These are medical issues that schools are unqualified to advise and act upon. Schools who continue to further insulate their students, our children, are driven mainly through fears of litigation. What they are doing is having negative effects on developing children by shielding them from natural environmental and sociological conditions that are essential to their growth and health. If the schools are allowed to continue to unnaturally insulate our children, they had better start saving up for the millions it is going to cost them when they're sued for medically and or sociologically damaging our children. This is only part of the greater issue of how schools continue to increase their unauthorised influence on our children beyond their brief, which is to educate them in the manner in which the children's family wishes them to. My assessment, and I think a judges assessment of the negative effects on our children's health resulting from the schools' uninformed and medically unsound notions, is that the schools will and should have accusations of child abuse to answer to.

    Eddy Wednesday 6 February, 2013 - 11:39 AM

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