HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Are silver dragees killing us all? (REPOST)

  • a

For years, my husband has refused to decorate cookies with silver dragees (those little silver BBs). He always points to the label, which says "for decoration only."

Now I hear that California stores can't sell them.
See http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...

Are silver dragees safe to eat in small amounts? If not, what about that edible silver leaf on Indian desserts? And what about gold leaf and gold powder?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Silver can be toxic, but silver leaf decorations and dragees have been around (and eaten) for something like hundreds of years. There has never been a recorded death or poisioning linked to them. So, yes - they are safe in small amounts. Just don't start downing a few bottles a day.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Clare

      Just because they are called "silver" dragees, I don't think that we should assume that they are actually composed of silver unless we know that for a fact. Are they really made of silver, or does this name merely describe the color of them, rather than the composition?

      Does anyone on this board know what they are actually composed of? For all we know, they could contain mercury or some other metal that has a "silvery" color.

      1. re: JB

        The bottle I have sitting next to me has very shiny dragees. It is a a CK brand from Ft.Wayne, IN.I bought them in a bakery and baking supply store. The contents are listed as sugar, corn starch, gelatin and silver. I don't have any supermarket dragees on hand but I have noticed that the ones in the store appear to be duller in color and seem to be silver and gold colored

    2. Frankly, it had never occurred to me that the coating on those things might actually be silver, but assuming that it is . . .

      Silver can be very toxic to certain forms of aquatic life, but it isn't particularly hazardous for humans and other mammals. The oral dose LD50 (i.e., the dose at which 50% of the subjects die) for silver is 10,000 mg/kg (mg/kg equates to parts-per-million body weight) for mice and 5,000 mg/kg for pigs. If we take the pig LD50 and apply a conservative adjustment of one order of magnitude (sort of a standard procedure) for transferring it to humans, that would mean a typical person would have to consume about an ounce of silver before there would be a 50% chance of dying from it. I don't know how much silver there might be on a typical dragee, but I suspect you'd have to eat all the dragees in a mid-size American city to get an ounce of silver, and the sugar would probably kill you first. Of course, that's an acute risk and you could also get into trouble by eating much smaller amounts of silver every day, but that's a similarly unlikely scenario.

      As a noble (unreactive) metal, gold is non-toxic, so you can eat as much as you want, or at least as much as you can afford.

      2 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        It doesn't look like anyone is in any danger...

        Link: http://www.silvergen.com/argyria1.htm

        1. re: FlyFish

          This is hilarious. Thanks for the entertainment!

        2. This is a scenario where a lawyer, supposedly "for the public good" sued small businesses that sold silver dragees. Now they are off the market in CA i guess. To make my grandmother's xmas tree cookies, always topped by a dragee, I guess I will have to hit the black market.
          Is it just me or does it seem there are greater enviromental toxins lurking in our food supply than the minute amount of silver we CHOOSE to consume on a decorated baked item once in a while.
          Reading about this just annoyed me no end...

          The LA Times had an article about this a while back. I have linked it below, but you need to be registered to read it.

          Link: http://www.latimes.com/features/print...

          1 Reply
          1. re: ciaolette

            That really is annoying ciaolette. I'm going to see if they still sell them in Penna. I have never used them before but this might be the year to start, they are gorgeous!

          2. I wonder why other countries -- France, Italy, and India, to name a few -- still use dragees and silver foil on their beautiful baked goods, and their citizens don't seem to be peeing their pants and moaning about how someone, somehow, somewhere might be harmed by it. I wonder why people are trying so hard to idiot-proof things that don't need to be idiot proofed. I wonder why people in California need to squash all the fun out of Christmas cookies. IMHO, the dragees are the prettiest decorations for the cookies.

            The only article I have read about anyone suffering much from ingesting silver is the guy who turned blue from ingesting too much colloidal silver -- and who still continues to ingest it: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,3.... And he will probably find a way to benefit from it.

            8 Replies
            1. re: nclovely1

              i think the key word in understanding the californian ban on silver dragees is "california." ;-).

              1. re: alkapal

                I live in California and enjoy decorating cakes. I am very annoyed by not having silver dragees for my cakes. The real problem is a California lawyer who decided we needed to be protected from a product that would harm us--if eaten in a quantity out of proportion to reality. People who eat with sterling silver probably lick more silver atomsoff their forks!

                I wonder what the penalty is in this state for silver dragee possession or possession with intent to sell.

                1. re: Kate is always hungry

                  Kate you are funny: "silver dragee possession or possession with intent to sell."

                  "look out! she's packin' "D"!"

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Thanks Alkapal. Right now I'm working on a snowman cake for a holiday party. It always breaks my heart when I have to tell the snowman there won't be any silver dragees again this year.

                  2. re: Kate is always hungry

                    pretty soon they'll be a silver dragee cartel funneling contraband pastry decorations in to california. Bakers with a dragee habit will be forced to buy them from ne'er do well pastry chefs on street corners outside mafia controlled bakeries. It's only a matter of time before the turf wars begin and police start finding innocent bakers in alleyways covered in fondant and royal icing. OH THE HUMANITY!

                    1. re: LabRat

                      dragee wars on the borders? aren't dragees the gateway to silver leaf?

                      "d" must. be. controlled.

                      A-HA! i've got it: a DRAGEE CZAR!

                      (oh wait, i'll bet cali-forn-ya already has one, appointed by the governator.)

                      1. re: alkapal

                        I believe he terminates the little silver balls himself.

                2. re: nclovely1

                  I, too, live in California. I only found out about the dragee sitch recently (as in yesterday) when I checked out some websites that sell them. Unreal! That lawyer's heart is in the right place but what an idiot! Anyway, I plan to purchase gold and silver dragees online and have them shipped to my mom in Washington State, neatly going around the problem of having them shipped directly to me. But how ridiculous that I have to go through such machinations for little gold and silver bbs!

                3. I grew up in CA. Ate plenty of them. I live dangerously. Sorry to hear they have weirded out on them. I cannot fathom eating gold. I don't care how trendy or "special" it is. It is just wrong. It is the rough/rich equivalent of a poor man chomping down a pack of Christmas tinsel. My husband won't eat red food coloring. Which thrills me come red velvet cake time. OK - Now I want some silver beebee's.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                    Silver dragees can be lethal.

                    A minister's wife hosted a ladies' luncheon at her house. One of the guests brought a cake decorated with a mutitude of silver dragees, which she placed on the kitchen counter for dessert. The minister's wife, however, had a weakness for those dragees. Every time she passed the cake, she picked a few off & popped them in her mouth. Pretty soon the cake was all but bald. Although the minister's wife loved the silver dragees, they always had an unfortunate effect on her digestion, causing a terrific build up of intestinal gas. She surely enjoyed those purloined dragees, but was having a heck of a time concealing the rumblings in her gut from the guests. She kept running into the kitchen to an attempt to hide the inevitable toots from the other ladies. Her efforts to contain her problem only made it worse.

                    And so it was, that she was in the kitchen when the oven timer went off, letting her know that the tray of lasagna was done. She grabbed a couple of pot holders, and bent down to pull the lasagna out of the oven. As she did so, her skirt hiked up in the back, and (you had to see this coming), the pent up gas released with a mighty blast. She shot the family cat.

                    I swear! No kidding!! (grin)

                    1. re: PattiCakes

                      "She shot the family cat."

                      funny how the moderators didn't cotton to my vision of the peta "mort du dragee" anti-dragee ad campaign showing the cat with silver lined holes all over......

                  2. Hmmph! I always knew that GOLD is so much better than silver. I use the gold dragees--and no problems at all:)

                    1. Am I the only one that did not know those little beebees were called dragees?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        No Sal. I found out last year that they were formally called "dragees". I just used to call them "Those little shiney gold thingees that turn white when you suck them that you put on top of cakes" I should have gone with beebees

                      2. As some one who works in a bakery, I am acquainted with all the ways one may meet death by dragee. 1) Coworker spills a bottle of dragees. You come walking along with your hands full, not seeing the minefield of dragees, fall and hit your head and die. 2)A large box of dragees falls from the top shelf, hitting you on the head, and you die. 3) You choke on one of the really big ones and die. The dragee is generally harmless, and it's not like you're going to be eating more than say, 3 or 4 at a time.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: beth1

                          The correct term for this is "mort du dragee". It's right up there with bain Marie, mis en place and ciffonnade as all-time favorite culinary words/phrases. Bottles of dragees should contain a warning from the Surgeon General. Eating even 3 or 4 can produce lethal results, as described in my post above.

                        2. Some people are more metal sensitive than others. I've had mercury and arsenic poisoning so wouldn't touch them or the supplements which contain silver. Many people have metal toxicity and don't know it. For people with mercury amalgam dental fillings gold can cause the mercury to leach out of the fillings more than it already does.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lgss

                            "I've had mercury and arsenic poisioning..."

                            What?! Who's feeding you? You do realize it's not normal to have had large amounts of those types of things in your food...don't you? Maybe start cooking for yourself?

                          2. When I was a kid I used to steal the dragee bottle out of the cake decorating drawer to play with them (and of course eat them!) because I loved how shiny and sweet they were. lol The biggest danger with a dragee is that you'll break a tooth on it because they're hard as a rock!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Kajikit

                              I had a wicked reaction to the gold flakes in Goldschlager liqueur a couple of years ago. I felt like there were red ants all over my body. My skin burned and itched all over. It lasted a couple of hours, then subsided. I really felt like an idiot when my name was called in the hospital emergency room and the itchiness, bumps and redness were gone. I have read that gold and silver can be very irritating internally if ingested. I didn't realize that silver could be toxic though. Funny, I remember eating lots of those dragees as a kid during cookie and cake decorating events. They never bothered me a bit.

                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                This post is very timely, as I went looking for gold (or any color) dragees just last week. In my internet research I learned that they were pronounced "drah-SHAY" (not drag-eez) so when I went to the local Central Market to find them, I very confidently asked the "associate" who offered to help "Do you have any gold or silver drah-shays?" "Do you mean drag-ees?" she said, authoratatively. I sighed and said (to myself) "whatever". They only had the silver ones (I wanted gold, as I was trying to replicate a cupcake recipe from Nigella Lawson's "Nigella Bites" cookbook) but I bought these anyway. However, at $14 a jar they are still unopened, and may just get returned if I do find the gold ones this week.

                                There's also a certain irony in all this, as I was planning to take these cupcakes -- with their festive drah-SHAYs -- to a Christmas Party, but the hostess is a lawyer! Do I dare? (thanksfully, I don't live in california!)

                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                  oh, take 'em! not all of us lawyers are idiots.

                                  1. re: Cheflambo

                                    Chef, here's a link to the pronunciation (it being in French more like Drah-zhees, not drah-Shay):
                                    The French, they have a different word, and pronunciation, for everything (as Steve Martin used to say).
                                    We called 'em silver beebees, but what did we know? This is a strange world we live in, where everything is an enemy, everything is toxic, and people must be protected with or without their consent. I'm glad I grew up in the bad old days, when just having enough to eat was A Wonderful Thing, and something to be grateful for.

                                  2. re: 1sweetpea

                                    now sweet pea, i have to inquire as to the amount of the goldschlager involved.....


                                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                                      Oh there is poison in that there Goldschlager... the same one that's in Jagermeister. I never went to the hospital, but I did get poisoned and did vomit violently for about 12 hours.

                                      Ah the good ol' days!

                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                        oh, you had to mention jager. What a painful rite of passage......

                                      2. re: 1sweetpea

                                        I don't think it was the gold that you reacted to since it is a biologically inert metal which passes though your system without being absorbed.

                                    2. This whole concept of the dragees being toxic is just plain silly. A case of way too much government interference. I know of one doctor who take 8oz of colloidal silver a day to treat his bacterial infection. I have treated my own Lyme Disease (and that of my dog's) successfully with it. Silver was widely used to treat bacterial infections prior to the use of antibiotics. Many people use silver daily to ward off infection. I wouldn't hesitate to use silver dragees myself or give them to my grandchildren.

                                      1. Unfortunately, everything is life is dangerous to, well life.

                                        One should seal themselves into a large plastic bag, and not explore anything else, out there. Just wait for death, and have a Living Will, plus instructions on how one should be disposed of. Everything is dangerous, and should be shunned.


                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          "One should seal themselves into a large plastic bag..."

                                          I am fairly certain that the sealed large plastic bag would do the job in taking one "out" well before the silver dragees had the chance to so much as give one a mild tension headache...