decorated birthday cake

Is That Birthday Cake Safe to Eat?

An elaborate birthday cake may look great, but be careful of all those cute decorations.

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. And for the beginning cake baker, there are a variety of online instructional videos, blogs, and articles, all promoting the use of these glitters to decorate cakes, cupcakes and cake pops.

According to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are some glitters and dusts that are edible and produced specifically for use on foods. These products are made up of ingredients that may be safely eaten. But others may not.

cake decorations and glitter

However, the FDA says, there are easy things you can do to determine what’s edible and what’s non-edible:

Carefully check the label of any decorative product you’re considering for use in foods. Companies that make edible glitters and dusts are required by law to include a list of ingredients on the label.

Common ingredients in edible glitter or dust include 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.

If you choose to decorate a food item with decorations that aren’t edible, remove them before serving the food.

Most edible glitters and dusts also state “edible” on the label. 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.

If you choose to decorate a food item with decorations that are not edible, be sure to remove the decorations before serving and eating the food.

Should you decide to buy, not bake, the FDA suggests that you talk to your bakery about the types of decorative products they use in their baked goods. Are they made with all edible ingredients?

When in doubt, ask to see the labels of the decorative products to ensure they are edible. And be informed about the glitter and dust products sold on the Internet. Ask the seller to provide ingredient information from the manufacturer before you buy.

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