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Author Topic:   decorating cookies

Posts: 390
Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 12-18-2005 11:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for outwest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

I was watching the news the other day and there was a snippette about available things to decorate cookies. It made a passing mention of not being able to buy those little metallic balls anymore because they were toxic and were outlawed. I knew I had some ancient ones hiding in the cupboard so I dug them out to read the ingredients.

They look a little tarnished. biggrin

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iconnumber posted 12-18-2005 11:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw some for sale fairly recently at a specialty baking supply shop. There were signs saying not to eat them. I remember my grandmother always had a glass jar of silver almonds in her library. Are they really toxic? Heaven knows how many I snuck out of that jar! And Grandma lived well into her 90s. Would she still be among us if not for the almonds? They had a wonderful metallic taste.

Mmmm, I wonder if I can get some at that cake supply shop...

[This message has been edited by Polly (edited 12-19-2005).]

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 12:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

What would they melt for (ha ha).


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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 05:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dragees (pronounced "Dra-jeys")

It appears Silver Dragees are poisonous only in California (see below).

The FDA seems to have a lawyer's view of things. I am guessing because there is no real science to support a conclusion.

Neither the news story nor the FDA says anything about Gold Dragees. ??

Dragees both gold and silver are available most everywhere (except CA). Just Google it.

Bay Area faces holidays without little silver balls on baked goods

Carol Ness, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Silver dragees, the glittering balls that decorate holiday... Decorating cookies with dragees is becoming impossible as...

CLARIFICATION: This story stated that stores such as Sur La Table were selling off their last remaining stocks of silver dragees, a pastry decoration. Sur La Table states that it originally removed the dragees from its stores in April 2003. Immediately after The Chronicle found in December that its Hanukkah decorations contained the dragees, it removed them as well, the retailer says.

Procrastinators are in for a shock when they set out to make those last-minute holiday cookies, cakes and gingerbread houses. Store shelves are almost bare of the beloved, tooth-crunching decorations called dragees -- better known as "those little silver balls.''

Because of a Napa lawyer's lawsuit alleging that the shimmery mini-orbs are toxic, stores such as Spun Sugar are selling off their last remaining stocks, and wholesalers and Internet suppliers simply won't sell sugar decorations filmed with silver, gold or copper to anyone in California.

"He's the Grinch that stole Christmas this year," said Gretchen Goehrend, owner of India Tree, a cake decorating wholesaler in Seattle who pulled all her dragees out of California after she was sued.

Already, India Tree has lost $20,000 by refusing to sell the silver balls in California because of the fear of being sued, says Goehrend.

Once again, California is on the cutting edge, the only place on the planet where using dragees could land you in court.

"I think it's a catastrophe. I think Christmas is going to have to come to an end. How can we decorate cookies without those silver balls?'' said Emily Luchetti, pastry chef at the Union Square restaurant Farallon.

The cookie-decorating party she throws at her house every year for family and friends was strangely dragee-free this year. During preparations for Sunday's festivities, Luchetti got a panicked call from her sister-in-law, who'd gone shopping for decorations at Cake Art in San Rafael and learned the news. "She said, 'We can't do this -- my daughter is going to be miserable.' "

Luchetti added, "How many (dragees) does one eat throughout the year? I can't believe there is anything that would hurt you -- if you ate a bazillion of them sure, but a few?"

But Napa lawyer Mark Pollock takes silver dragees very seriously. He started suing to force dragees off the California market when he was a Solano County prosecutor in the early 1990s, and got the spice giant McCormick to stop selling them in the state. Now an environmental lawyer in private practice, he sprang back into action last spring when dragees surged back into vogue after Martha Stewart used them on holiday cookies.

Pollock sued Stewart, gourmet food purveyor Dean and DeLuca, India Tree and about two dozen other distributors and retailers. As of Monday, Pollock said all but one had settled, agreeing to stop selling silver cake decorations in California, and the last was about to sign. Settlement amounts are confidential.

Potential risk

Pollock says his motivation wasn't that someone had been hurt by eating dragees -- he doesn't know that anyone has. But he says dragees have the potential to put consumers, especially children, at risk because silver is a toxic metal that can build up in the body over time and cause problems.

"Silver is a subtle poison," he said, comparing it to mercury in fish. "Eating dragees unnecessarily increases your body burden of this chemical. If children start off with heavy doses in Christmas cookies, they start out behind in the race."

While federal and state authorities list silver as toxic at certain levels -- for instance, for silver miners who breathe strong concentrations daily -- the Food and Drug Administration has dealt with dragees by declaring them non-edible and requiring jars to carry labels saying "for decoration only."

Pollock calls that "fraudulent and fictional" because everyone eats them anyway, especially kids.

Warning not enough

The attorney said he's also working with the state attorney general's office on litigation requiring markets to post warnings about mercury in fish. But he says a warning on dragee jars wouldn't be enough because the wording doesn't wind up on the cookies at the bake sale.

State health and toxic waste authorities said dragees weren't a concern as long as they were labeled properly.

"We are not aware of any health problems associated with this product," said Lea Brooks of the California Department of Health Services. "Levels of the metal are extremely low -- you'd have to consume massive quantities. We don't know how much."

Their potential as a hazardous waste would depend on large quantities ending up in a landfill, something authorities consider unlikely since they are expensive and are usable for years.

Retailers angry

Distributors and retailers said they've settled with Pollock not because they believe their dragees are toxic but because a trial would cost far more than settling. But, like Beryl Loveland of Beryl's Cake Decorating and Pastry Supplies of Virginia, they're angry and think a trial would have proven that there's nothing wrong with a few dragees now and then.

Locally, dragees disappeared from stores like Sur La Table almost immediately, and are dwindling fast at smaller shops.

At Spun Sugar, a candy- and cake-making specialty store in Berkeley, owner Linda Moreno is selling off the few sizes and shapes of the metallic decorations she has left, and says she can't get any more -- although she has no trouble getting the silver and gold leaf used in Indian sweets.

"It's the same stuff everyone's had for an eternity," she said. "I was always more worried about someone breaking a tooth."

Other bakers and baking supply shop owners were so leery of getting sued themselves that they spoke only on condition that their identities not be revealed. One baker said she's always brought back suitcases of dragees from France, and she won't stop. But she makes her customers sign a waiver that they understand they are for decorative purposes only.

Another baker, Nora Tong of San Francisco, who specializes in exquisitely decorated tea cookies, hadn't heard of the lawsuit because she also buys her dragees in France. She was aghast.

"Oh my god, people have been eating them for a hundred years. I will always buy them. I love dragees," said Tong, whose business is the wholesale Nora's Patisserie.

"It's too bad that we are all so fearful, and we are being terrorized by this," she said.

Chronicle staff reporter Anastasia Hendrix contributed to this report.E-mail Carol Ness at

Sec. 545.200 Confectionery Decorations (Nutritive and Non-Nutritive) (CPG 7117.03)


*The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act contains a specific prohibition against the presence of a non-nutritive substance in confectionery (section 402(d)(3)). Although there is no outright prohibition against the presence of non-nutritive substances in other foods, section 402(b) is applicable in determining the legality of the addition of non-nutritive substances in other food products.*


Decorative cake letters, etc., consisting of sugar and albumen are considered confectionery under the act and must be labeled in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.

*Some candleholders and other cake decorations are made from sugar and albumen with an inserted metal wire. When these decorations are sold in a manner not implying they are a food or confectionery, they are not regarded as food within the meaning of the act.*

When small silver balls known as "silver dragees" are sold exclusively for decorating cakes and are used under conditions which preclude their consumption as confectionery, they are not considered to be in the category of a food or confectionery.

Silver colored almonds have been offered for cake decoration. In this regard, the *Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition* has stated:

"Although, the articles (silver colored almonds) may be intended for cake decoration, we do not agree that they are dragees; further, we see no compelling information that the articles are to be used for decorative purposes only and thus would not be eaten. There is no authority under the color additive regulations which permits silver to be used as a color. Neither is there a food additive regulation (or exemption) authorizing silver as a food coating."


Recommend seizure or detain all shipments of silver coated (or silver colored) almonds, and any other silver coated food articles not confined to decorative use only.

Detentions should charge the article is violative within the meaning of Section 801(a)(3) of the act in that it appears to be adulterated, since it appears to bear silver, a color additive, which is unsafe within the meaning of Section 721(a) of the act.

NOTE: See Sec. 515.100 (CPG 7105.01) for a statement of policy on non-nutritive substances as ingredients of confectionery.


*The article was adulterated when introduced into, while in, and is adulterated while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce within the meaning of said Act 21 U.S.C. 342(c) in that it contains a color additive, namely silver, which is unsafe within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. 376(a), since there is not in effect a regulation or exemption issued pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 376 permitting use of this color additive.*

*Material between asterisks is new or revised.*

Issued: 1/19/77
Reissued: 10/1/80
Revised: 4/1/81, 6/27/88

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11520
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 06:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ya know I can see a creative screen writer using these as a production element. wink

Load shotgun shells with Dragees.

  • A sweet way to get rid of werewolves.
  • On CSI ... the victim was shotgunned but because the Dragees are mostly sugar they dissolve - no obvious evidence.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
People who use the “Colloidal Silver” products ingest lots of silver.

From NIH - Colloidal Silver Products, consumer advisory :

    “...... Animal studies have shown that silver builds up in the tissues of the body. In humans, buildup of silver from colloidal silver can lead to a side effect called Argyria. It causes a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, other organs, deep tissues, nails, and gums. Argyria cannot be treated or reversed, and it is permanent. .... Other side effects from using colloidal silver products may include neurologic problems (such as seizures), kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches, fatigue, and skin irritation. Colloidal silver may interfere with the body's absorption of the following drugs: penacillamine, quinolones, tetracyclines, and thyroxine.”
eek It apparently take a lot of silver for this to happen.

A rather easy to read treatise (all be it a bit medically technical) can be found here - Dermatology Online Journal

Something a bit more fun is the Blue Senator Candidate smile

True-blue bids for Senate
Stan Jones
Thursday, 3 October, 2002

    Jones is aiming to be America's first blue senator

A US Senate hopeful in the state of Montana has a bad case of the blues after years of drinking a home-made silver solution for medical reasons.

Libertarian candidate Stan Jones, 63, first discovered his skin was turning blue last year.

He began taking colloidal silver in 1999 amid fears that disruptions caused by the millennium bug might lead to a shortage of antibiotics.

His condition, known as argyria, is not serious.

Mr Jones is one of three candidates challenging Democrat Max Baucus for a Senate seat in November's mid-term elections.

Anthrax 'treatment'

He made the solution by electrically charging two silver wires in a glass of water.

"People ask me if it's permanent and if I'm dead," he told the Associated Press news agency. "I tell them I'm practicing for Halloween."

Colloidal silver is marketed as an anti-bacterial agent or immune-system booster.

Along with other dietary supplements, it was offered as a treatment for illnesses such as anthrax following bio-terror alerts in the US last year. But there is no scientific proof of its efficacy.

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ah, you beat me to the post.

Here's a website by a woman who suffers from argyria:

Rosemary's Story

A page with photos:

Argyria Photos

Sounds very unpleasant.

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Posts: 963
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 11:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As for Gold, it is an ingredient in a rather expensive arthritis medicine, so I doubt it could be very harmful in small doses. I am rather skeptical about silver as well. Has anyone ever heard of some one dying of an "overdose of silver?!" - there are cheaper ways to kill yourself!


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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 12:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for outwest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So, you can all buy these little balls and I can't because I live in California?! What a rip!

[Anyone want to smuggle me some.]

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Richard Kurtzman

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shakespeare was right.

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some people claimed silver fillings are dangerous, too, but that was mostly because of the mercury in the amalgam. Now there is another reason to avoid a root canal:
Some months ago I noticed a blue patch on my gums - the dentist said it was from silver left behind when a root with a filled root canal was ground out a few years ago. . . .

So, I guess now I've got the blues. eek

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 07:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is the response of a local Pathologists. By the time the silver lethal dose is reached you would have died as a result of having ingested the main ingredient SUGAR. Your body could no longer support the massive amount of fat tissue. Your arteries would be totally occluded by plaque. You would probably suffer from type II diabetes and all of its very unpleasant side effects on the body. Maybe California will ban Sunshine as too much can cause skin cancer.

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 07:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just happened to remeber something similar to this. As a young nurse I heard about Bronptons' Cocktail. This was a mixture of morphine, tincture of cocaine, ethyl alcohol and something else I do not remember. It was in use in the UK to control terminal cancer pain. Here in the US there was a problem. The FDA would not allow it to be used as it could produce physiological addiction. Heaven forbid we should make an addict out of someone with only days or weeks to live. After all pain builds character. Now back to the original topic. In those 35 years of nursing I have never see nor heard of a case of agyria. I have never seen a newspaper article or professional journal article. Maybe someone with lots of time could determine just how much silver there is on one ball then one jar then one case. Heck lets go for broke and get a federal grant to study the average number of balls used on each cake, cookie etc. Then we could PLEASE somebody stop me........

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iconnumber posted 12-19-2005 09:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lodnum (an opium/alcohol tincture)?

As for that grant, you laugh, but I could show you far more absurd subjects of academic research.

As for sunshine, banning it in Chicago would be redundant.


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iconnumber posted 12-20-2005 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I spoke too soon. There are articles in reference to argyria but they precede my time. It seems that colloidal silver was used in nose drops/spray back in the 1940's and 50's. It had been a component of homeopathic medicines. There is a site with photos of an individual with argyria. There is also a site with information on toxic levels and rates of excretion in sweat, urine and feces. So, when in California worry about temperature inversions and less about those little silver balls. To everyone fearful of argyria/silver toxicity I will sacrifice my own personal safety and take all that dangerous silver off your hands. The year is coming to a close so if I do not see anyone again MERRY CHRISTMAS and A SAFE HAPPY NEW YEAR. To all those on the gulf coast May You Have a Most Blessed Christmas

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iconnumber posted 12-20-2005 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was great seeing those silver balls and reminded me how sick I got when I ate most of them off of my sister's wedding cake. I was five and the wedding was held in Rome. I have not eaten any since. I know it had nothing to do with the silver coating and all to do with the quantity I devoured.

Thanks for the memory.


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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 10-01-2015 10:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paul Karason aka "Papa Smurf"

Here is an Oprah, Dr. Oz interview

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