Is It Safe to Eat the Colourful Glitter on Top of the Cupcake

Caroline Weinberg wrote . . . . . . . .

Before Tide Pods inexplicably captured America’s imagination, edible glitter enjoyed a few moments of Instagram fame in 2017 — peaking with a latte topped with a liberal sprinkle of glitter that caught diners’ eyes in November. Since then, other restaurants have added the ingredient to their own menus, resulting in colorful dishes like countless glitter lattes, glittery strawberry jelly, “sparkly” iced tarts, glitter smoothies, and even glittery gravy, which one London pub served alongside its Christmas pie.

This week, glittery food hits the big time. Mardi Gras 2018 inspired glitter-topped hot chocolate. Los Angeles-based Astro Doughnuts just announced a glittery gold doughnut to celebrate the Oscars. And for Valentine’s Day, burger chain Shake Shack will unleash a glittery pink milkshake in select cities; dubbed the “Love Shack,” it’s a Valentine’s Day-themed strawberry milkshake topped with whipped cream and glitter.

But as the glitter trend gains steam, the FDA cautions that all that glitters is not edible, and some environmental scientists are trying to get us to give up glitter altogether. So what’s the deal with glitter in food?

Why are people eating glitter?

Like raccoons, people like shiny things. Researchers have found evidence that this preference starts in infancy, with some suggesting that it’s tied to our “innate need for water.” Non-flavored edible glitter, which is often sold at craft stores, adds no additional flavor to dishes — it’s a purely aesthetic add for those times when drinking plain coffee or eating a cupcake with dull icing just doesn’t seem exciting enough. But not everyone is happy with the trend, and some people have complained that certain glitters add an unappealing gritty texture to the food.

Is this the same glitter I used in arts and crafts?

No. Or at least it shouldn’t be. There are two forms of glitter you’ll find topping cakes and drinks: edible and non-toxic, and that classification depends on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. agency that regulates, among other things, what products are considered safe for human consumption.

Edible products are cleared for human consumption in the U.S. and are mandated to include an ingredient list. Non-toxic products won’t kill you, but they’re not considered food, and not subject to the same rigorous testing as products designed for consumption. Play-Doh, for example, is non-toxic, but no one would recommend that you eat it as a snack.

“Consumers should carefully check the label of decorative products they consider for use on foods,” says FDA spokesperson Dr. Marianna Naum. “Most edible glitters and dusts also state ‘edible’ on the label. If the label simply says ‘non-toxic’ or ‘for decorative purposes only’ and does not include an ingredients list, the product should not be used directly on foods.”

Concerns over edible glitter consumption first emerged in 2012, thanks to an episode of the cultishly adored reality program The Great British Bake Off: In the episode, one contestant sprinkled glitter atop her cupcakes but admitted she wasn’t sure if the product was edible. The episode quickly made glitter one the top 10 food safety concerns in Britain.

What’s the glitter on my food made of?

Ingredients in edible glitter commonly 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.” Barring any food allergies, it can be sprinkled liberally on or in your food, should you be so inclined.

Non-toxic or “food contact” glitter, which is often used on cakes, is technically safe to consume in small quantities, but that doesn’t mean you should be using it as an everyday garnish. The FDA issued an advisory statement about glitter in 2016, noting it had recently become “aware that some non-edible decorative glitters and dusts are promoted for use on foods.”

According to the FDA, there is no difference between this non-toxic decorative food glitter and the glitter that you poured over construction paper as a child; non-toxic glitter can be made of plastic. This glitter is sometimes labeled as for “display” only, with fine print explaining that it is not intended to be eaten and should be removed from food stuffs prior to consumption — and challenging task when it’s being applied directly to icing or whipped cream.

Should I be wary of glitter on food?

Eating small amounts of non-toxic glitter on food will not kill you, so there’s no need to panic if you accidentally consume something meant to be decorative. People with some gastrointestinal disorders that have trouble with digesting small, hard food stuffs like seeds may want to be particularly careful in these cases. “Non-toxic glitter may not kill you, but don’t eat it,” says Dr. Zhaoping Li, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UCLA. “At least not regularly or large quantities.”

So you can feel free to cover your coffee, cakes, steak, fish, and other food products with edible glitter — if you can find it. It’s far more difficult to find a bottle of edible glitter in a store than the non-toxic version. If you’re eating at a professional bakery, you can ask what type of glitter is used, but employees may not know offhand: When asked, staff at one New York City bakery took 9 minutes to confirm (the answer was a gelatin based, edible glitter).

But Li still cautions against going overboard with the edible sparkly food. “Our body can only take care of it if we only consume things like glitter foods once a while,” she says, “in small amounts.”

Source: Eater


EFSA confirms health concerns for hydroxyanthracene derivatives in food

Some substances belonging to a group of plant ingredients known as hydroxyanthracene derivatives can damage DNA and may cause cancer, said EFSA after assessing their safety when added to food.

This group of substances naturally occurs in plants such as aloe or senna species. Extracts containing them are used in food supplements for their laxative effect.

In 2013, EFSA found that hydroxyanthracene derivatives in food can improve bowel function, but advised against long-term use and consumption at high doses due to potential safety concerns. The European Commission subsequently asked EFSA to assess the safety of these plant ingredients when used in foods, and provide advice on a daily intake not associated with adverse health effects.

Based on the available data, EFSA concluded that certain hydroxyanthracene derivatives are genotoxic (they can damage DNA). Therefore it was not possible to set a safe daily intake. When tested in animal studies, some of these substances have been shown to cause cancer in the intestine.

These conclusions are in line with previous assessments on the botanical sources of these substances by other European and international bodies, including the World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency and, most recently, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

Source: European Food Safety Authority

Deadly E. coli Outbreak of Romaine Lettuce in Canada and the U.S.

Since mid-November, dozens of people have become ill and two people have died in Canada and the U.S. due to infection with E. coli 0157:H7, which has been linked in this country to contaminated romaine lettuce. Here is a primer on E. coli and what consumers can do to avoid becoming sick:

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals and are typically harmless. But infection with the O157:H7 strain, which produces a shiga toxin, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Healthy adults usually recover within a week, but young children and older adults have an increased risk of developing a life-threatening type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

How does contamination occur?

E. coli can be shed in the feces of cattle, poultry and other animals, polluting water used to irrigate crops and the soil where fruits and vegetables are grown. Leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, can become contaminated during and after harvest from handling, storing and being transported. An individual infected with E. coli also can transmit it to other people.

“This strain of E. coli causes more outbreaks than all other strains combined, so it’s the big problem,” said Herb Schellhorn, a microbiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, who specializes in the study of E. coli and other water- and food-borne pathogens.

What’s the source of this outbreak?

A Canadian Food Inspection Agency-led investigation has determined that romaine lettuce is at the heart of the E. coli outbreak in five eastern provinces, but the source of the produce has not yet been identified. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has concluded the E. coli involved in 17 cases in 13 states has a closely related genetic signature as the strain behind Canada’s 41 cases, but has not confirmed the food source. One person in Canada and one in the U.S. have died.

“This time of year, most of our lettuce will come from southern places … so if it’s affecting both countries, it may be from California or Mexico or other countries that produce romaine lettuce,” said Schellhorn. “But it also can be contaminated during the processing by individuals who are infected or if there was fecal contamination introduced at some point in the distribution (process).”

He said the longer it takes to pin down the source of adulteration, the more difficult it will become over time, given that romaine is a perishable item.

“It’s not like it’s frozen and we can go into meat lockers and test food materials for contamination. Depending on how it was contaminated, if it was in one large place and it’s the water that was contaminated, that could have implications for other food materials that might have been exposed.”

While that “doesn’t appear to be the case” with this outbreak, Schellhorn said E. coli. 0157:H7 is highly infectious and exposure to only a very small amount can cause disease.

What can consumers do?

The Public Health Agency of Canada says on its website that thoroughly washing potentially contaminated romaine lettuce — or any other fresh produce — in water can remove the bacteria.

But Schellhorn suggests it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Not only does he advise not purchasing romaine lettuce currently on grocery store shelves, he suggests consumers toss out any they have in the fridge.

“It’s not worth taking a chance … Lettuce isn’t that expensive, it has a short shelf life anyway,” he said.

“I think I would just throw it out.”

Source: CBC

Genetically Engineered Pink Pineapple Is Safe to Sell, FDA Says

Maggie Fox wrote . . . . . . . .

A strain of pineapple genetically engineered to be pink instead of yellow got the go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.

The pink pineapple, made by Del Monte Fresh Produce, simply has some genes toned down to keep the flesh of the fruit pinker and sweeter, the FDA said.

“(Del Monte) submitted information to the agency to demonstrate that the pink flesh pineapple is as safe and nutritious as its conventional counterparts,” the FDA said.

“(Del Monte’s) new pineapple has been genetically engineered to produce lower levels of the enzymes already in conventional pineapple that convert the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene. Lycopene is the pigment that makes tomatoes red and watermelons pink, so it is commonly and safely consumed.”

The pineapple will be grown in Costa Rica. The company will label it “extra sweet pink flesh pineapple.”

The FDA has for years said genetically engineered plants are safe and says there is no need to even label GM plants, although federal law requires labeling.

Last year, the FDA approved the first genetically modified (GM) animal approved for the U.S. food market — a salmon engineered to grow faster than usual.

“Crop improvement happens all the time, and genetic engineering is just one form of it,” the FDA said.

“We use the term ‘genetic engineering’ to refer to genetic modification practices that utilize modern biotechnology. In this process, scientists make targeted changes to a plant’s genetic makeup to give the plant a new desirable trait. For example, two new apple varieties have been genetically engineered to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing levels of enzymes that can cause browning.”

In the U.S. bioengineered soybeans make up 93 percent of soy crop and bioengineered corn varieties makes up 88 percent of the acreage of planted corn. Most sugar comes from GM beets.

“Humans have been modifying crops for thousands of years through selective breeding,” the FDA said.

“Early farmers developed cross breeding methods to grow numerous corn varieties with a range of colors, sizes, and uses. For example, the garden strawberries that consumers buy today resulted from a cross between a strawberry species native to North America and a strawberry species native to South America.”

Source: NBC News

European MEPs Failed to Block Use of Phosphates in Kebabs

Kathy Askew wrote . . . . . . .

The European Parliament has voted down proposals to block the use of phosphates in meat cooked on spits.

MEPs narrowly rejected an objection to proposals from the European Commission to allow phosphates to be used as additives in products such as donor kebabs.

The use of “frozen vertical meat spits​” is not currently authorised under EU law. Nevertheless, according to the Greens in the European Parliament, the meat industry has “for a long time”​ been using phosphate additives in kebabs “on a large scale”​.

The EC wants to legalise this practice and introduced a draft regulation that would permit phosphoric acid, phosphates and polyphosphates as food additives in these meat preparations.

The objection was raised by Green/EFA MEP Bart Staes and the Socialists & Democrat’s Christel Schaldemose. They said a ban on phosphates would “protect public health”​.

In order to overrule the Commission, Staes and Schaldermose required the backing of an absolute majority of MEPs plus one, meaning at least 376 votes. During the vote on Wednesday (13 December), 373 MEPs rejected the EC proposal by backing the objection, while 272 MEPs voted in favour of allowing phosphates in meat cooked on skewers, while 30 abstained.

‘Hands off the kebab’ – EPP Group

Ahead of the vote, the rightward-leaning EPP Group vowed to support the European Commission’s proposal to authorise the use of phosphates in frozen meat spits.

“The EPP Group will do everything in its power to stop the scaremongering and avoid a European kebab ban,”​ said Renate Sommer MEP, the EPP Group’s spokeswoman for the file.

Sommer said the group it was resisting the proposal because research suggests the level of phosphates contained in kebabs is “negligible” – while the average intake of phosphates from Coca-Cola is “much higher”.

“The changes in the EU legislation concerning phosphates are meant to make it more difficult for the control authorities in ​Member States to impose such a ban without concrete argumentation, and are hence necessary,”​ Sommer argued.

Is there a health risk?

The EPP Group also maintains no evidence supports the suggestion that consumption of phosphates represents a risk to health.

“There is no proof that phosphates have negative health effects,” Sommer insisted.

However, the Greens maintain there are “serious concerns​” over the health implications.

“Our objection to the Commission’s proposals is nothing to do with wanting to ban kebabs. We want people to be able to enjoy all their favourite foods, but without the addition of potentially dangerous and unnecessary food additives.”

The European Food Safety Authority is currently reviewing the health risks associated with phosphate additives. Its findings will be published before the end of next year.

Source: Food Navigator