What’s the Deal with Edible Gold Leaf?

Is it really OK to eat gold?

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Ruth Hartnup/ CC4.0

Edible gold leaf isn't as expensive as it looks.

Gold leaf is one of those things that you hear about occasionally, and while it certainly indicates that whatever food item it’s gracing is going to be expensive, it also leaves us scratching our heads. Isn’t gold a metal? And a very expensive one at that? What’s it doing topping food instead of, say, being turned into an engagement ring?

So here’s the deal with edible gold leaf: Yes, it’s real gold, but it’s so incredibly thin (only one micron in some cases!) that it isn’t insanely expensive. It’s still certainly a luxury item, though: A pack of five sheets that are about three-by-three inches each sells online for $24. To give you some perspective on how thin the stuff is, a gold bar the size of a pack of gum can be turned into gold leaf the size of a football field.

So say you were to grab a sheet of gold leaf and eat it. What would happen? First of all, it would be slightly crunchy but otherwise relatively inoffensive (you might need to drink some water to get it down, though). While you might expect it to have a metallic flavor, it actually won’t taste like anything because none of it will dissolve in your mouth. This is why gold makes such a great material to fill teeth, and it’s also the reason why people used to bite gold coins to make sure they were real; if any fillers like copper were in there, they’d taste them (your fun fact for the day!).

And in case you were wondering, because it’s so small, you probably won’t notice the gold leaf on the way out, for what it’s worth. 

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