Luster dust: The shimmering food trend that may be toxic

The holidays are here and kitchens are bustling with the baking of cookies, gingerbread houses, and cakes galore. One of this year’s biggest trends is “luster dust,” a decorating powder that adds color and sparkle to desserts. However, according to a recent study that was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), luster dust is associated with toxic metal poisoning.

galaxy doughnuts with luster dust

What is luster dust?

Popularized on television programs, social media, blogs and in magazine articles, luster dust is a decorating powder that is stirred into frosting and icing to create a showstopping iridescent shimmer.

Toxicological data

In 2019, children in Rhode Island and Missouri became ill after consuming birthday cakes that contained luster dust. Concern over the poisonings prompted the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to investigate heavy metal poisonings associated with luster dust.

luster dist wedding cake

What is in luster dust?

Multiple companies manufacture luster dust, so the specific composition of luster dust varies. Some luster dusts contain toxic levels of metals, such as copper and lead.

Are some types of luster dust safe to eat?

Yes. Read labels carefully, because luster dusts that are safe for consumption are typically marked “edible” on the label.

Some luster dusts used as cake decorations are not edible or food grade. Inedible types of luster dust are labeled as “non-toxic” or “for decorative purposes only.” Although inedible luster dusts do not expressly warn against eating the product, if you see these labels on a jar, you should assume that they are not safe for consumption.

Will there be more strict enforcement on the labels?

The CDC believes that luster dust labels should be more explicit, and they should specifically state whether the luster dust is edible, or whether it is a non-edible product that is not safe for human consumption.

Unless and until the labels are revised, consumers and commercial bakeries need to be vigilant in order to prevent unintentional poisonings.

If you or a loved one have been sickened after consuming luster dust, reach out to Allen & Allen for a free consultation to discuss your unique situation, at 866-388-1307.