"Edible" Glitter Might Not Actually Be

According to the FDA, even if your glitter is non-toxic, it might not be edible.
cupcakes with edible glitter
Photo: Getty Images/Claire Gunn

Hi! Everything about this year has been unyielding garbage, and the US Food & Drug Administration is wrapping it all up by telling us that the festive holiday cookies we’re eating might get their sparkle from tiny pieces of inedible glitter.

The FDA revealed this information in a brightly hued YouTube video that opens with lingering close-ups of a decadent looking baked good. “There’s lots of non-edible glitter on this cake,” the agency gloats. “Pretty—but unsafe to eat.” It then explains how we can determine whether other glittery cookies and cakes are safe to putting in our mouths or not. (Honestly, after the past 12 months, I’d probably eat something called Asbestos Surprise if it was handed to me on a cocktail napkin).


If you’re still inclined to eat something that looks like a recently detonated pageant contestant, the FDA says that any glitter or dust that is safe to use in the kitchen will have an ingredients list printed on its packaging. “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,” the agency explains.

And although you’d think that having the word ‘non-toxic’ on the label means that it’s OK to eat, that’s not always the case for a wide range of products that can be sold as glitter dusts, highlighters, shimmer powders, or other luminous-sounding synonyms. In order to be truly food-safe, the agency explains, it should be labeled as “edible”—not just non-toxic—in addition to having a list of its ingredients. Despite the warnings, the FDA chooses not to explain what could happen if you eat non-toxic, non-edible glitter, or whether there are any inherent health risks associated with these products. (MUNCHIES has reached out to the FDA for comment but has not yet received a response.)

Last week, British supermarket chain Waitrose announced that its own-brand holiday products—including cards, wrapping paper, gift tags, flowers, and plants—will be totally glitter-free by 2020. Waitrose isn’t implying that its customers are eating that shit (it’s all decidedly in the inedible category), but it is trying to further shrink its carbon footprint. According to The Guardian, most of this decorative glitter is made from a kind of microplastic that can be terrible for the environment, in addition to posing risks to both humans and animals.

“Reducing the impact of plastics on the environment is something our customers care passionately about,” Tor Harris, Waitrose’s head of corporate social responsibility, health and agriculture, said. “While it is important to eliminate the use of glitter, we will find other ways to make sure our products sparkle at Christmas and throughout the year.”

Yeah, I’m not sure I want those unicorn cookies anymore. Period.