Holiday baking tends to be sparkly. People like to add edible glitter to frosted cookies and cupcakes to resemble snow or the shimmer on wrapping paper and bows. However, not all glitter is edible, and the Food and Drug Administration wants you to be on the lookout before you eat something that makes you seriously sick.
“Some decorative glitters and dusts promoted for use on foods may, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten,” the FDA wrote on their website. They go on to say that much of the decorative shimmer you see online and in craft and bakery supply stores listed as “luster dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust, and petal dust” might not actually be meant to be ingested.
“Glitter isn't food,” Andrew Stolbach, MD, MPH, a medical toxicologist and associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Refinery 29. If you ingest it, he said, “It can get into your lungs and cause some lung irritation, coughing, shortness of breath, that kind of thing.”
Luckily, that tends to only happen in extreme cases. If you do accidentally eat non-edible glitter, “It’ll probably just go straight through you,” Dr. Stolbach said. Meaning that your body will eliminate it like waste, so you might see something glittery in your toilet bowl later.
The FDA says you can tell the difference between edible and non-edible glitter by carefully checking the label of any decorative product you’re using in food. “Companies that make edible glitters and dusts are required by law to include a list of ingredients on the label,” they say.
That means that if you can eat it, it includes things like sugar, acacia (gum Arabic), maltodextrin, cornstarch, and approved color additives. Also, most edible glitters sold will read “edible.” “If the label simply says ‘non-toxic’ or ‘for decorative purposes only’ and does not include an ingredients list, you should not use the product directly on foods,” the FDA says.
So if you’re frosting cookies on your own this year, make sure you’re decorating with edible glitter. Here are 12 tips for surviving the holidays on your own this year.