The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised bakers to avoid using glitters or dust products as decorative elements of their baked goods. The warning came after a variety of instructional videos online promote the use of these decorations for the baked goods they showed how to make. Unless the decoration was made specifically to be eaten, a “non-toxic” label may not be enough to ensure one’s safety when ingesting something glittery.
The warning is especially important during the holiday season as more people buy beautifully-decorated cakes for parties or get-togethers. The sparkles or dusting may make the cake look more appealing, but it’s important to consider whether or not this physical appeal is worth it. Before you eat that sparkly cupcake, you should know what truly edible glitter is.
The FDA specifies that “edible” glitters usually contain sugar, gum Arabic, maltodextrin, cornstarch, and colour additives that are deemed safe to eat. Some glitters are not made of these ingredients but are deemed “non-toxic” instead of “edible.” Materials that are labeled as “non-toxic” are usually made of inert materials; however, just because they won’t have an immediate violent reaction doesn’t mean it’s safe to ingest in more than small quantities. Glitters that are usually composed of plastics, some sort of colouring, and a reflective material like aluminium. They’re usually not harmful unless inhaled, but in large quantities, there could be bad effects.
Other than the biological dangers of ingesting a lot of non-edible materials, there are bad environmental effects to microplastics when they are discarded. For example, ingested glitters may end up in the sea when sewage pours out into it, and they could be detrimental to the health of marine creatures. This serves as a reminder that just because we aren’t affected doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to our actions.
For health, safety, and environmental reasons, we should think twice before using decorative glitters on our cakes. If they are specifically labelled as “edible,” it’s probably good to use. If something is labelled as “non-toxic” instead of specifically edible, then it’s probably good to think twice before using it.