All that glitters is not gold for your stomach health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about edible glitter that may not be safe to eat. Some of the sparkles on foods — be they Valentine’s Day chocolates, cupcakes and cookies or ice cream, bagels, beer and pizza all year round — are made from materials that humans shouldn’t consume.
“What goes into my body or the bodies of other people, I feel personally responsible for it,” said Sophia Miller, who runs a bakery out of her Phoenix home.
The 47-year-old is vigilant about what kinds of edible glitter she puts on the sugar cookies she sells. Most of the six to 12 orders Delectable Diva Pastries gets monthly are for treats destined for display at dessert tables, birthday parties or weddings, so appearance – read glitter – is key.
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But glitter could be actual bits of metal, according to Benjamin Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. And those edible sparkles of ill repute are generally sold online, not in supermarkets and craft stores.
“The warning is warranted. This isn’t the stuff on construction paper with glue and this is what you can use on cake,” he said. “There’s a difference between labeling and advertising ‘You can put in cake.’ You put small type at the bottom of a website that says ‘Don’t eat it.’… Online food sales are difficult to regulate.”
Common ingredients are sugar, acacia or gum arabic, maltodextrin, cornstarch and edible color additives, like mica-based pearlescent pigments and FD&C colors, according to the FDA.
As you prepare to decorate food for your sweetheart or bite into a treat from your valentine, the FDA recommends that you:
Check the packaging: Edible decorations are required by law to state what ingredients they contain, so if there’s no ingredients list, don’t eat it.Pay attention to wording: If the label only says “non-toxic” or “for decorative purposes only,” don’t sprinkle that glitter on your food. It’s not safe for human consumption and if you do decide to add that decoration, be sure to remove it before serving.Question stores about the foods they sell: When buying, say, cake pops from a bakery, find out if the decorations are edible. If need be, ask to see the ingredient list on the products used or find out who the supplier is.
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Edible glitter – a.k.a. luster dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust and petal dust – can trace itself back to the unicorn craze, the popularity of baking TV shows with extravagant creations people try to recreate at home and the dazzle factor borne of Instagram.
“It has a lot of the same appeal that diamonds and jewelry have. It’s a visual appeal,” said Miller, the baker, adding that her female customers in particular want this kind of pizzazz. “It adds sparkle and basically shine… I think it kind of classes it up a bit.”
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Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer