The Food and Drug Administration has categorically deemed the silver balls -“dragées”- that often used in holiday cookie decorations, as a non-food item, meant only for decorative purposes.
So what’s a kid (or grown-up) to do? If you want to be cautiously compliant, simply do not consume the little silver balls on your snowflake cookie. Better yet, do not use the decorations on your culinary masterpieces, especially if you’re baking for children. Kids are not likely to remove the ooh-shiny beads without parental interference.
The battle between silver dragées and the FDA began way back in 1906. That’s when they placed the ban on mineral substances for use in food. Since the irresistible dragées are coated with actual metal, they fell out of the food category and into the non-food department.
The state of California has banned the sale of silver dragées, citing a 2003 lawsuit which ruled the beads harmful if swallowed. The tiny shiny balls are still available in the baking aisle of grocery stores in the remaining 49 states.
While the largest manufacturer of dragees states that the metal-coated candy is harmless to add as a decoration and should be removed prior to consuming, there may be better options.
For your gingerbread men, snowflakes, and holiday baking, consider using an alternative. Here are a few suggestions:
A dot of royal icing
Mini chocolate/white chocolate chips
A piped dot of melted candy or white chocolate
Get creative! There are endless possibilities you can use in your cookie decorations that are truly edible.