25th September 2019
There has been a huge amount of hype in the past year or two about “Glittergate” i.e. whether you can or cannot use certain types of glitters, dusts and sprinkles on cakes.
As the law on this has become really confusing, we thought we would set out our understanding of glittergate below. In particular, what you can and cannot use depends on whether you are making cakes for yourself/domestic purposes or for business and resale.
If using glitters and dusts at home, the answer is simple –if you don’t know what the rule is for something, use your common sense. It’s like when you’re driving abroad and there are unfamiliar street signs: you use your common sense, you drive sensibly, right?
For domestic purposes, the UK’s Food Safety Act 1990 – and therefore the UK’s Food Standards Agency’s restrictions – don’t apply to food prepared for domestic purposes. So if you make cakes, cookies, whatever for your family and friends that’s fine (but don’t cross the line into giving away food to gain business – that is covered and you would be subject to the FSA’s restrictions).
Of course, you may decide you prefer to follow the rules that cake makers running a business in the UK have to follow and those are set out below too.
If you run a cake business or are providing cakes to members of the public as a business (even if not for profit) you need to comply with the various laws and regulations. Each country has its own laws and below we set out our understanding of the somewhat complex UK laws.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has made clear its position on four classifications of glitters and lustre dusts:
There are two categories of products from the above that are safe to use:
Edible glitters and lustre dusts can be sprinkled directly onto your cake, giving it that glittery, razzle-dazzle shimmer and helping you to add some colour, or balance the colours of your cake.
Tints can be used as shading decoration and are matt rather that shimmery.
Edible glitters and lustre dusts are approved by the FSA in the UK for eating. They are readily absorbed by the body, and each ingredient is listed on the pot of glitter/lustre dust so you know exactly what you are eating.
You can tell if a glitter or lustre dust is edible because it should say “Edible” somewhere on the pot. A statement that something is “non-toxic” isn’t sufficient (we consider non-toxic glitters and lustre dusts further below).
If a pot lists various E-numbers, mica and titanium dioxide, for example, that does not mean that it is edible (there is controversy on this point as the FSA’s guidance is unclear on this point) but all edible glitters and lustre dusts must be labelled with the name of the various E-numbers and additives required to be listed.
In all this confusion, we have tried to make it easier for you: here are some examples of edible lustre dusts and edible tints from the Sugarflair range.
Non-toxic and inedible glitters and lustre dusts that have tested positive for safety for contact with food can be applied to food for decoration. These are perfectly safe products but the FSA has said they are for decoration only and not for consumption.
The rationale seems to be that non-toxic glitter is not absorbed into the body (it literally passes through you). Even though it is non-toxic, the FSA say that they should not be eaten. Whether or not you agree, you shouldn’t use non-toxic and inedible glitters on parts of the cake that will be eaten. Of course, you can put them on decorations on cakes like sugar flowers and other aspects that won’t be eaten.
The new law says that consumers need to be able to remove the non-toxic and inedible glitter from the cake, cupcake, cookie or bun, before eating. Being able to scrape off the glitter isn’t enough.
An example would be non-edible glitters used to decorate ornaments such as flowers made of florist paste, figurines and areas of decoration you can remove. Therefore, putting non-toxic glitter on buttercream flowers would not comply with the legislation as such flowers could not be removed.
In short, all of the above are safe to use in the UK. Here are some examples of non toxic glitters:
Sugarflair Craft Dusting Colours
There are certain non-toxic and inedible glitters and lustre dusts that have not been tested for safety and should not be used on anything that comes into contact with your cakes – no matter how removable.
Both Rolkem and Edable Art have been subject to criticism from the FSA regarding their glitters as they have failed to act according to the rules set out by the FSA.
Rolkem's super gold and gold were recalled in February 2018 as they were deemed unsafe for consumption and use on food. The supplier is believed to have incorrectly labelled the product as "edible" when in fact it had a mixture of gold and other metals mixed in rather than pure and edible 24 carat gold. The lower grade gold will have been mixed with other metals, likely copper, which when consumed can cause harm.
According to the information provided by the FSA, the details were not provided for Rolkem's products and an understanding of their food safety could not be gained, the Food Alert for Action notice was then instigated. As the ingredients were not provided, the risks cannot be confirmed and the advice would be against consuming the products unless and until Rolkem provide a statement confirming the position for UK users. Note that this is a UK view. Other countries have laws that differ and so the UK ruling on Rolkem will not affect other countries. Always check your own country laws.
Margaret Martin of EdAble Art was prosecuted for making glitter that was labelled edible when it was in fact made from shredded plastic, which has an unknown effect on the human digestive system.
Although the plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, was deemed suitable for food contact, this label is specific to small areas and in its un-compromised state. When it has been shredded it cannot be guaranteed that it is safe and it certainly isn't edible. It was deemed unsafe for human consumption and should not therefore be used on any cakes. EdAble Art was repeatedly mis labelled as "edible" which was in fact, not true. In 2014 Margaret Martin was convicted of 12 offences under the food safety act. Again this was in the UK and the position in other countries won't necessarily be the same.
In summary the law can be pretty confusing and there are a ton of different names and labels that food can have. As a general rule, we would recommend following the label and if it says "edible" then it is safe for consumption.
If there is any uncertainty then you should be contacting the glitter supplier. They will provide you with more information as they have a "declaration of compliance" where by they have to show that their product meets the requirements of legislation.
As with everything – use your common sense and of course we would love to hear your feedback. Let us know if you want to know more about this or anything else
If you loved this article all about glittergate, you may want to check out this free tutorial all about which Golds to use on cakes! Have a look at the tutorial from Pretty Witty Academy here.
Maybe next time you embark on a cake venture, check out the the Pretty Witty Academy site! We have nearly 1000 cake tutorials showing you everything from how to cover a cake with sugar paste and fixing damaged cakes to fully advanced gravity defying cakes.
We also have a huge business section for those wanting to run a cake business. From website building to pricing, we've got you covered.
Why not check out some of these amazing novelty cakes now! See more at Pretty Witty Academy.
For more articles and help, have a look at the blog.