Cake Decorating Dust Linked To Heavy Metal Poisoning

( In a report on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that products known as “luster dust” used in cake toppers aren’t meant to be eaten, despite being labeled as “non-toxic.”

The CDC report cites investigations conducted by health officials in two states that traced illnesses back to baked goods using such cake toppers.

In Rhode Island, health officials investigated a 2018 report in which six children became sick after a birthday party. The children suffered from vomiting and diarrhea that was consistent with heavy metal poisoning. All of them had eaten a bakery cake with a thick layer of frosting that was mixed with a “gold dust.”

Testing on a leftover slice revealed that this “gold dust” contained copper. Tests on dust used by the baker also showed the presence of copper. The report noted that the product in question was marked as “nonedible,” “non-toxic” and “for decoration only.”

State health officials subsequently found widespread use of nonedible luster dust at other bakeries as well. Brendalee Viveiros, a food safety expert with the Rhode Island health department who co-authored the CDC report, said the state has issued guidance on the use of luster dust to businesses.

In a similar case noted in the CDC report, in 2019 Missouri health officials identified as a lead hazard a “primrose petal dust” used to decorate a cake while investigating elevated lead levels in a 1-year-old child. A jar of bright yellow decorations found in the child’s home had been used to create flowers on the birthday cake. Lab tests conducted on the dust, which had been labeled as “non-toxic,” showed the sample was 25% lead.

The Food and Drug Administration also issued a public advisory warning about the potential hazards of eating decorative glitters. In its advisory, the FDA said bakers should check the labels of decorative products used on foods. These products are required to include a list of ingredients. However, if the label contains no ingredients, but only says “non-toxic” or “for decorative purposes only,” the FDA advises that the product should not be used on foods.

These glitters can also be sold under additional names such as disco dust, twinkle dust, shimmer powder, and petal dust.