Sunday 22 April 2012

All that glitters...

I love to use glitter on my cakes. It doesn't taste of anything, but gives cakes a certain 'boooooom!' that you don't get from frosting alone. It's glam, it's sparkly... it's causing a right ruckus!

Last week I was chatting to @clandestinecake, @CCCPudsey, @domesticjules and @acedavesgirl about glittter on Twitter (really...) and the general hoo-hah in the press about whether it is safe to put on cakes. I really didn't take it too seriously. I use it all the time, and I don't glow in the dark or twitch, and I'm not dead. 

This week I am tasked with making some 'monster' cakes, so I set about buying some garish green glitter for the occasion. Off I trot to Hobbycraft with list in hand. Now, this is just my luck. I was informed by the 'baking expert' that all glitters had been removed from sale about ten minutes before I arrived, amid fears from head office that the packaging was misleading. When I got home I read the Food Standards Agency Guidance. Although this outlines that the 'non-toxic' glitter I have been using isn't to be consumed, it didn't say that it was harmful. It is recommended that these products be removed before consuming.

This morning another article appeared in the Mail Online, which claims this debate was prompted by Sarah Hadland, after she joked with Paul Hollywood on the Great British Bake Off that she wasn't sure that the glitter going on top of her Red Velvet cakes was actually edible. 

Terrence Collis, the FSA's Communications Director had offered some guidance on their site in February this year, stating:
‘Buy it [glitter] from the baking section of the shop (not an art shop), check the label says it’s edible and check the ingredients to see that it’s made of something edible, otherwise you could be covering your cupcakes with plastic!’
He later stated on their blog:
‘Remember that non-toxic doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it.’ 
Rather than give guidance, this appeared to confuse consumers even more. After being bombarded with questions, it was ruled that these glitters were not to be eaten.

The upshot is this. Glitter is non-toxic, but it is not absorbed by the body. It just passes through (spare me the toilet comments...) Therefore, it is not a foodstuff. Only foodstuffs should be eaten. One eBay seller uses a compelling argument on his online 'guide'. He suggests that sweetcorn should carry the same 'non-toxic' label, as the husk is not absorbed by the body. 

I've been using these products for a while with no adverse effect. I use them in very small amounts and I'm not personally concerned about using them again. However, it's all about choice, and what I do support is clear labelling so that consumers are able to make an informed decision. 

There is of course an alternative to the 'non-toxic' variety of glitters, including mica with titanium dioxide (often found in make-up) and starch based products. I googled these products and came up with quite a few very quickly. CCC Shop have a wide variety of colours in two different types of 100% edible glitter.

Make up your own mind based on the facts. Are you happy to use 'non-toxic' glitter? I'd be interested to hear your opinions, please leave a comment below...

Sources and Links:
Storm in a Cupcake by Valerie Elliott, Mail Online
eBay Guide
FSA Blog
Food Standards Agency Guidance


  1. It’s actually a nice and useful piece of post. I am glad that you simply shared with us. Thanks!

  2. I was just reading the article on the Mail's website earlier. I'm happy to carry on using them for our own use ... but am worried that others will turn up their noses at my cakes if I carry on using it after this furore. I only ever use a tiny bit, but I do love the effect ... Arrgh, what to do?

  3. Used the green glitter last year for Halloween cupcakes then read the packaging... Doh! Ended up scraping the icing off and re icing mainly because other people would be eating them. Happy to use the edible stuff but a bit nervous to use the non toxic glitter.

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  5. Interesting blog. I will continue to use non-toxic glitter for personal consumption (because I love glitter!), but not in my business (I only use true edible stuff, not the non-toxic glitter) because I don't want to give the impression to my clients/customers that I'm clueless about FSA rulings. I am quite shocked as to how many people who call themselves professional bakers seem oblivious to this FSA standard. A very well known cake maker still seemed to be using last month and nly at the weekend I saw a few stalls at Farmer's Market with cakes covered in the stuff. From a consumer point a view it makes me wonder what other FSA standards they are ignoring/unaware of. Yes it is non-toxic, but so is glass and plastic and I wouldn't want to be selling food with that on it.

  6. To be honest, I'm happy to use it on cakes for home consumption but I'd think twice now about using it on the ones I do for cake club or for our bake sales. It's not because I think it's dangerous, I just worry that others will be put off. I need to find a really good quality substitute!

  7. I bought some last year at a food festival and the bloke explained it thus: it says non toxic because it isn't a food stuff. But all that will happen is that it will pass through you. To be honest it became a bit of a joke in our house that we were going to have glittery poops. I mean, who doesn't want that?!
    I'm not concerned. I think it's a little h&s gone mad as its been used for years. I don't use it a lot & if I had a business I wouldn't use it. But I dont, so I do.

    1. Let's throw caution to the wind and embrace glittery insides!


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