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Rhode Islanders Cautioned Against Using Certain Decorative Products on Foods

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising home and commercial bakers to avoid using luster dust products to decorate cakes and other food items unless the products are specifically manufactured to be edible. A "non-toxic" label does not indicate that a product is edible.

The shiny decorations on top of cakes, cupcakes, and candies are commonly made using a decorating powder called luster dust. Luster dust is a term to describe a wide range of decorative powders which can be glittery, a shimmery color, or a metallic shade such as gold and bronze. Other names to describe these products include twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust, and petal dust.

Nationally, bakeries and home bakers have used these non-edible products on baked goods, thinking that a "non-toxic" label indicates that they are safe to eat. Some non-edible luster dust products labeled as "non-toxic" have been found to contain high levels of lead, copper, and other heavy metals. In 2018, an investigation due to illnesses in Rhode Island found that a "non-toxic" luster dust applied to a cake was made almost entirely of copper powder. Consuming luster dusts may lead to illness which varies based on the heavy metal and may include vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, kidney damage, neurological complications, and developmental delays.

Many luster dusts are sold online and in craft and bakery supply stores. A variety of online instructional videos, blogs, and articles also promote the use of these glitters and dusts to decorate foods such as cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops.

If you are buying a baked good, talk to your bakery about the types of decorative products that they use. When in doubt, ask to see the labels of the decorative products to ensure they are edible.

Some glitters and dusts are edible and are produced specifically for use on foods. Most edible glitters and dusts state "edible" on the label. Additionally, companies that make edible glitters and dusts are required by law to include a list of ingredients on the label.

For more information on determining if a luster dust is edible is available online. (see link below)

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