Concerns have been raised after cake decorations were found to be made from plastic and powdered brass, in an investigation by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service.

Following advice and warnings from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Trading Standards recently conducted a survey to find out what was being sold and used to decorate cakes in West Yorkshire.

It found that many of the glitters were made from inedible polyester plastic, of the type used to make drinks bottles. Under the microscope, the plastic is revealed as being in tiny hexagons with jagged edges. In another case the cake glitter was actually finely powdered brass.

Chris Hunt, public analyst, at Trading Standards, 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.”

Graham Hebblethwaite, chief officer of West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service, added: “Anyone manufacturing cupcakes to sell should make detailed checks on what they are buying as ingredients. Anyone buying cakes with glitter decorations should ask the baker what the glitter is actually made of before eating them. Do not assume that plastic glitter would just pass through the digestive system without causing harm, because no-one actually knows.”

In April this year, British Baker reported that, in a bid to clear up confusion over the legal use of edible and non-toxic glitters, the FSA had developed new guidance for food businesses and consumers.

It said that, as a general rule, only glitter or dust clearly labelled as ‘edible’ should be applied to food for consumption. Edible products will be made from permitted additives (such as mica and titanium dioxide) and must comply with the requirements of EU food additives legislation, it advised.

“Edible glitter or dust must be labelled with the name or E-number of any additives used and should carry either the statement ‘For food,’ ‘Restricted use in food,’ or a more specific reference to their intended food use,” said the FSA.