CAKE lovers who buy decorated cup cakes could be unwittingly eating plastic or powdered brass.
An investigation into “glitter” cake decorations found that some were unfit for human consumption and suited only for use on greetings cards. Many were made from inedible polyester plastic of the type used in drinks bottles.
The trend for frosted cup cakes began in the US and they are now a staple of every bakery and supermarket. The popularity of the BBC’s Great British Bake Off series has also led to a boost in sales.
The warning was issued by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service, who undertook analysis following advice from the Food Standards Agency.
Chris Hunt, a public analyst who carried out the research, said: “Many of these glitter products have been found to be made of plastic and would be suitable for decorating cards and ornaments, but are not designed to be consumed.”
When the plastic glitter was placed under a microscope, it was shown to be made up of hexagonal fragments with jagged edges.
In one case, the glitter was made of finely powdered brass.
Often, cup cakes are made by small craft bakers or individuals who assume that the toppings sold by specialist catering retailers are suitable for use on food.
Confusingly, however, a label indicating that the glitter is “non-toxic” does not mean it is safe to eat.
“Whilst the plastic is safe to use as a material for the production of a bottle, bowl or spoon, there has been no research on the effects on health of eating such material in glitter-sized fragments,” Mr Hunt said.
“No plastic is approved for human consumption and the Food Standards Agency advice is that it should not be eaten
“When they find that glitter is plastic and is not edible, most people no longer wish to eat the products on which they are used nor allow their families to eat them.”
Only glitter clearly labelled as “suitable for eating” should be used to decorate cakes, experts said.
Graham Hebblethwaite, chief officer of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “Anyone manufacturing cup cakes to sell should make detailed checks on what they are buying as ingredients.
A Gallic version of the series is in production by BBC Worldwide and will air later this year, with French culinary experts taking the place of judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
Contestants will cook in a stylish orangery, rather than the bunting-strewn marquee familiar to British viewers.
Jean Louis Blot, creative director of BBC Worldwide Productions France, said: “Having crossed the English Channel to the spiritual home of the sweet tooth, this warm and authentic format has all the crucial elements to be a showstopper.”