This time of year, we’re up to our elbows in cookie dough. While decorating the finished product has always been the most fun part of baking, the Food and Drug Administration has warned that some products we use to decorate our holiday cookies aren’t actually edible.
It turns out that the dust and glitters you find at the store — yes, even in the food aisles — aren’t always edible. So if you’re shopping for sparkles for your Christmas cupcakes or shimmer powder for your NYE disco ball cookies, you’ll want to take a closer look at the packaging.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s edible and what’s purely aesthetic once you know what to look for. Companies that make edible decorations including glitter and twinkle dust are regulated by the FDA and, just like any other food, are required by law to list the ingredients on the packaging. This means, if you’ve looked everywhere on the package and can’t find an ingredients list, you’re holding a product for decoration only (and the package may even outright say “for decorative purposes only”).
If the product you’re holding is edible, it will likely say somewhere on its packaging “edible glitter” and include a list of ingredients that commonly include items like sugar, cornstarch, acacia, maltodextrin, and pearlescent color additives.
And don’t be fooled by products that tout “non-toxic” on the label. Just because it’s non-toxic does not mean it’s edible. Play-Doh and poster paint are non-toxic, for example, but no one would recommend you eat them.
And of course, if you’ve ordered sparkle-topped baked goods from a bakery, be sure to double check and make sure they use edible glitter before chomping down.
If you’ve recently consumed sparkly snacks without checking, there is no need to panic. Eating a small amount of non-edible glitter won’t kill you, but as a rule of thumb, it’s best not to consume items like this regularly.
Awareness of non-edible glitter sitting on shelves next to baking products first emerged in 2012 when a contestant in The Great British Bake Off admitted she didn’t know if the product she used was safe for consumption. The episode made glitter one of the biggest food safety concerns in Britain that year.
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