30 Jun 2016

Analyzing edible glitter with our Quest ATR

Edible glitter has recently become the subject of health warnings in the news.

ATR spectrometer accessories are an ideal accessory for the characterisation of such a sample type. Little sample preparation is required and throughput is high.



Image source: fabartdiy.com

In 2012 the Food Standards Agency in the UK placed edible glitter among the top ten food concerns in the country.

In a charity edition of the Great British Bake-off on BBC2, Sarah Hadland claimed she wasn't aware of whether the glitter she had sprinkled over her cupcakes was in fact safe to eat.

Glitter named as 'edible' is made from starch-based food products. Glitter named as 'non-toxic' is manufactured from plastic and is of course not digestible.

Some glitters have been found to contain sharp elements which could tear the throat.

The Food Standards Agency have parts of their website dedicated to the use and consumption of "glitters and dusts" in food. Here they confirm that "non-toxic" glitters can be applied to food for decoration, but not for consumption. This can be tricky:

"Consumers would need to be able to remove them entirely from the product, such as a cake or bun, before eating. An example would be non-edible glitters used to decorate ornaments, such as artificial flowers, figurines and candle holders, which are removed from the food before consumption. The glitter on these products would have to be permanently fixed so it does not fall onto the food."

The Quest ATR analysing edible glitter

We recently lent the analytical department of West Yorkshire Joint Services a Specac Quest ATR spectrometer accessory on a free loan.


Immediately we were told the Quest could revolutionise the way samples were analysed at the Leeds lab, the cell not requiring any sample preparating (e.g. grinding or pelleting).

The consistency of edible glitter is most easily compared to that of a powder. It may also be put into a sort of gel or paste.

Our Quest ATR accessory is perfect for testing solids of an odd consistency, including powders. It can also analyse liquids. This application note explains how it works and gives example spectra of lubricants.

Check out #SpectroscopySolutions for more.