Last updated on 11 April 2012

The use of glitters and dusts with food

The Food Standards Agency has produced this guidance to help food businesses safely use ‘edible’ and ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts with food. It applies to food that is prepared at home as well as to commercially made products.

As a general rule, only ‘edible’ glitters and dusts can be applied to food for consumption.

It is important to note that glitters and dusts described as ‘non-toxic’ are not the same as products labelled ‘edible’ and should not be eaten. Only ‘non-toxic’ glitters that have been tested for safety for contact with food, can be applied to food for decoration, but not for consumption. They should be labelled ‘For food contact’ (or alternative wording to indicate their use) and include instructions for use. Food businesses should be aware that glitters and dusts that meet the requirements of the food contact materials legislation have not been approved for consumption.

Other ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts that have not been tested for contact with food, and are not labelled ‘For food contact', should not come into contact with food.

  • What is an edible glitter or dust?

    Dusts or glitters that are edible will include permitted additives (such as mica and titanium dioxide) and must comply with the requirements of EU food additives legislation Regulation 1333/2008. Only glitter or dust clearly labelled to show it is suitable for eating should be applied to food for consumption.

    Edible glitter or dust must be labelled with the name or E-number of any additives used and carry either the statement ‘For food', ‘Restricted use in food', or a more specific reference to their intended food use (for example ‘Edible lustre’).

  • What are ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts?

    ‘Non-toxic’ glitters and dusts are not made from edible materials and must not be eaten.

    It is important to note that not all ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts can be applied to food for decoration. Only ‘non-toxic’ and inedible glitters that have been tested and meet with the requirements of the legislation on food contact materials and articles can be applied to food for decoration, but not for consumption. They should be labelled ‘For food contact’ (or alternative wording to show they are not to be eaten) and include instructions for use. They need to be removed entirely from the item before consumption.

    Untested ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts do not meet with the requirements of the legislation on food contact materials and articles. They should not be labelled ‘For food contact’ (or similar wording to indicate their use) and should not come into contact food.

  • If the dust or glitter is only labelled ‘non-toxic’ can it still be applied to food and eaten?

    No. Only edible glitters or dusts composed of permitted food additives can be added to cakes and other food for consumption, as long as they comply with the relevant food additives legislation.

  • Can ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts not intended for consumption be applied to cakes for decoration?

    Yes, if they have been tested for safety and meet the requirements of food contact materials Regulation 1935/2004. If they are plastic, they must also meet the requirements of Regulation 10/2011. These glitters and dusts can be applied to food for decoration, but not for consumption.

    Consumers would need to be able to remove them entirely from the product, such as a cake or bun, before eating. An example would be non-edible glitters used to decorate ornaments, such as artificial flowers, figurines and candle holders, which are removed from the food before consumption. The glitter on these products would have to be permanently fixed so it does not fall onto the food.

  • Can food businesses use ‘non-toxic’ glitters and dusts on foods that will be eaten without them being removed?

    No. The food business operator must ensure the materials they use are safe, and covering food with inedible substances would pose an unknown level of risk to consumers. Unless the glitter is a recognised food additive (and therefore edible) it should not be used. So-called ‘non-toxic’ glitters, placed on food in a way that cannot be removed entirely before the food is eaten, do not comply with general food law Regulation 178/2002.

  • Can edible glitters and dusts be used in domestic cake decoration?

    Decorative materials used in domestic cake decoration and intended for consumption must meet the requirements of additives legislation Regulation 1333/2008. This allows only permitted additives to be sold to consumers or to be added to food. These products should be labelled to show they are suitable for consumption.

  • How can consumers be sure they are buying the right type of glitter or dust? Will these products be clearly labelled, for example ‘non-edible’, ‘edible’ or ‘non-toxic’?

    Edible glitters have to comply with the requirements for food additives, and will have the appropriate labelling specified in additives legislation. They should be labelled ‘For food', ‘Restricted use in food' or a more specific reference to their intended food use (for example ‘Edible lustre’).

    Any other type of glitter, described as ‘non-toxic’, should be regarded as inedible. If the labelling indicates it is suitable for food contact use, for example ‘For food contact’, it can be used to decorate items that can be removed from the food item before consumption.

  • Can non-edible glitter or dusts be used as sprinkles on food?

    As ‘non-edible glitter’ used as sprinkles, on soft icing or buns for example, cannot be entirely removed before consumption, it should not be applied to food. Only edible glitter should be used in this way.

  • Who is responsible for ensuring glitters and dusts are correctly labelled?

    The glitter or dust manufacturer is responsible for ensuring their products are safe, fit for purpose, and labelled correctly. Food businesses unsure about how the product should be used should contact the manufacturer. Glitter manufacturers have to provide suppliers with a ‘declaration of compliance’ to show the product(s) meet the requirements of legislation for food contact materials and articles.

  • Who can I contact about permitted additives?

    The trading standards or environmental health department at your local authority will be able to provide information about permitted additives.

    Your local authority contact details can be obtained from the link below.

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