There’s a special occasion coming up: a birthday, a wedding or an anniversary and you’re planning a spectacular themed cake to celebrate. You’ve found an amazing cake-decorating video on YouTube or Instagram, but the materials used make you wonder if they’re safe to consume.
The popularity of food glitter has grown tremendously in recent years, owing to the food world’s ambition to make everything you eat “Instagram-worthy” before it even touches your lips, including cakes, chocolates, cookies, popcorn and even your favourite celebratory tipple!
Why are people eating glitter?
So why are people so fascinated with food that sparkles?
It’s simple! Shiny, glittery, and dazzling things attract us. Because food glitter is often flavourless, it provides an attractive finish. Moreover, in today’s social media-oriented world, many of us enjoy taking photos of food for aesthetic reasons, as what is a pleasure to the eye is food for the soul!
The festive baking season is undeniably a great time to break out your stash of food glitter / lustre dust / shimmer powder but it is important to keep in mind that not all decorative items used on food are safe to eat. Whilst we all look forward to a bit of sparkle this holiday season, there are still some decorative glitters / dusts out there that include ingredients that are not intended for consumption.
How can you tell if the glitter you want to buy is “edible”?
Before you start sprinkling glitter or dust on your festive bakes, keep in mind that there are a lot of “edible imposters” out there without the requisite certifications. Consider them the edible glitter world’s “knockoffs”! They resemble edible glitter in appearance and feel, but they aren’t necessarily tried and tested and they may actually be “non-toxic” as opposed to “edible”.
These glittery imposters may be found in online marketplaces and even in the cake supply aisles of your local supermarket.
How to tell what’s edible and what’s not
Based on guidance previously issued by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), here are a few simple things that you can be aware of if you want to figure out what’s edible and what’s not:
- Check the description of any decorative product that you are thinking of using. The word “edible” is on the label of most edible glitters and dust.
- You might see glitter or dust described as “non-toxic”. According to the FSA, non-toxic glitter should not be consumed. A non-toxic glitter can be applied to food for decorative purposes only if it is labelled “for food contact”. Logically, that means it should be removed before eating.
- If it is not labelled as “edible” or “non-toxic for food contact” it should not even come into contact with food! To be clear, only glitter or dust that is labelled as “edible” should be consumed.
Advice issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is similar and invites consumers to look at the ingredients list. Ingredients such as maltodextrin, cornstarch, sugar, acacia (gum arabic) and colour additives approved for food use are commonly found in edible glitter.
As companies must, by law, disclose a list of ingredients used in food products, if you see the name of an ingredient that looks unfamiliar, search it up to get more information. Whilst ingredients such as mica, titanium dioxide and iron oxides are classified as edible, due to concerns about clean labelling and the desire to move towards natural ingredients that have been responsibly sourced, a number of discerning food businesses have moved away from these in recent times.
Magic Sparkles edible jewel flakes and glitters are actually made of food ingredients. We adhere to market-leading food safety standards and take pride in what we create for our customers, whether they be home bakers or leading multinational food businesses.
Let’s quickly recap before wrapping up: aside from not purchasing food glitter from undiscerning sources, how can you identify which glitters or dusts can be consumed and which can’t? (1) Look at the labelling to see if it states that it is edible. (2) Look for ingredients that you can easily identify as being edible and search up any ingredients that you are unsure of.
The FDA has advised that anything which simply says “non toxic” or “for decorative purposes only” should not be used directly on food. “For decorative purposes only”, which could just as well mean “don’t consume me”, is a term that we would personally prefer not to see on a label.
If you do decide to decorate your bakes with something that happens to be non-edible or decorations that are “non-toxic for food contact”, you should remove the decoration before eating.
Similarly, if you’re purchasing a cake from a baker for a special event, do double-check as to whether they will be using anything that is not classified as “edible” on it. Although the FDA has made it clear that commercial bakers must adhere to specific guidelines as to what ingredients they use and warns of potential enforcement action against manufacturers of food containing unsafe ingredients, it is always best to be vigilant.