‘Edible glitter’ has been super trendy, but the FDA wants buyers to be wary of potentially non-edible ingredients.

By Mike Pomranz
December 18, 2018
kelly bowden/Getty Images

Thanks to the food world's desire to make everything you eat worthy of Instagram before it hits your mouth, interest in edible glitter has boomed in recent years in everything from "unicorn" foods to even drinks like beer and prosecco. Needless to say, the holiday baking season is as good a time as any to dig into your edible glitter stash to make sure all of your cookies are extra festive, but Christmas's rapid approach may also explain the timing of a new warning from the FDA that decorative products on foods are not all inherently safe to eat.

"FDA wants you to be aware that some decorative glitters and dusts promoted for use on foods may, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten," the government agency writes in the new warning. "Many decorative glitters and dusts are sold over the Internet and in craft and bakery supply stores under names such as luster dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust, and petal dust…. There are some glitters and dusts that are edible and produced specifically for use on foods. These products are made from ingredients that may be safely eaten. But others may not."

So beyond not buying your edible glitter off the dark web, what other steps can you take to tell which glitters are edible and which are not? The FDA offers up a number of tips. First, look for an ingredient list: Food products are required by law to have one. These glitters typically have "edible" written right on the label and include ingredients like "sugar, acacia (gum arabic), maltodextrin, cornstarch, and color additives specifically approved for food use, including mica-based pearlescent pigments and FD&C colors such as FD&C Blue No. 1."

Words you don't want to see on the label are "for decorative purposes only" — which might as well translate to "don't eat me" — or simply "non-toxic." Just because something isn't "toxic" doesn't mean you necessarily want to purposefully put it into your body. (Crayola crayons are famously non-toxic, but you probably wouldn't want to garnish your food with crayon shavings.) In fact, if a glitter isn't edible, the FDA suggests you probably shouldn't use it on food at all.

That said, if you do choose to decorate with non-edible items, the FDA reminds you that you should remove it before eating the food. Likewise, if you are buying foods from somewhere else like a baker, make sure to double check with them about which parts of a well-decorated food are edible and which are not. And if you really want to make your baker's day, the FDA offers up this tidbit: "When in doubt, ask to see the labels of the decorative products to ensure they are edible."

Of course, commercial bakers have certain rules they have to follow as well, and the FDA's advisory includes a message for them too. "Manufacturers of food containing unsafe ingredients are potentially subject to FDA enforcement actions to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace," the agency warns. If you want those sorts of death cookies, back to the dark web you go!

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