Can you eat gold?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat gold?” with an in-depth analysis of edible gold, the different forms of edible gold, and the uses of edible gold in food and beverages. 

Read on to know about the effects of consuming edible gold.

Can you eat gold?

Yes, you can eat gold. Gold is a biologically inert metal and so it does not react inside human bodies. This indicates that it is not assimilated during the digestive process, so it is safe to consume. 

However, it provides no nutritional or health benefits. This food decor is solely used for its rich and sparkling appearance, and to bring a bright and exciting finish to a dish. 

The purity of edible gold should be 23 to 24K, beyond that used in common jewellery, which may consist of other metals and can be toxic if ingested. 

Edible gold

Edible gold is a gold material that is used to decorate food items. It is composed of pure gold or at times a composite of gold and silver. As the name indicates, it is edible, since gold is classified as ‘biologically inert’ which implies that it moves through the digestive system without undergoing assimilation.

It is mostly used for garnishing cakes and sweet desserts, soups, pasta, risottos, sushi, cocktails and wines to bring a glamorous element to a dish. At times, it is used for decorating meat as well. 

Since edible gold has no taste, it is usually added at the top of the dish and has direct contact with food. 

Types of edible gold

Edible gold can be particularly used in 3 different shapes to garnish foods and beverages: leaf-shaped, in flakes or dust form. 

  • Leaf Sheets:

The leaf sheets are marketed in two ways mainly: loose leaf and transfer leaf. Loose-leaf is most useful when split into small bits for garnishing sweets and truffles. Transfer leaf, on the other hand, is fancied when decorating a wide surface, such as a cake, fully with gold.

Leaf sheets are fragile and can be difficult to handle. They quickly rip and can crumple, and as they are so flimsy, the gold sheets will blow away if contracted by a little breeze of air (even when you inhale). 

Therefore, it is necessary to follow a few directions and make sure the necessary equipment is nearby, including a knife or razor blade and a clean, dry brush; a pair of cotton gloves are also essential. 

  • Dust: 

Gold dust is a very fine powder that when sprinkled, produces a beautiful effect on confectionery, cocktails, desserts etc.

  • Flakes: 

Gold flakes are slightly larger than powder granules and come in free-form shapes

In many of the recipes that require gold in flakes or dust form, it is usually patted with a knife or spattered on the top. The flakes provide a gold glitter to candies and cupcakes; they are also commonly used by fancier barkeepers for adding floating gold flakes to alcoholic beverages. 

Gold is also added during the bottling of wines and drinks and it is usually mixed during the preparation of cocktails. Lately, gold leaves have been applied to decorate steak and hamburgers.

The gold used for edible purposes is recognised in Europe, as E-175, a designation given by the EFSA when using gold as an additive or food colouring.

Effects of consuming edible gold

Edible gold has long been a major component of medicines and is usually mixed with other chemicals and minerals to work effectively to decrease inflammation and improve overall health. 

However, nanoparticles of gold may influence someone who is hypersensitive to metals and can damage the cell membranes if injected straight. 

In the context of consuming edible gold in drinks, desserts or sweets, the gold nanoparticles are large enough and it is not easy for the particles to penetrate the cell membranes and cause destruction. Therefore, it is considered to be a safe food.

Are all kinds of gold edible?

No. Most of the gold used in jewellery is made of 14 Karat or 18 Karat gold, which has been combined with metal alloys for added strength. This suggests that gold with a less carat content has more contaminants and is less safe to consume. 

Edible gold must be purified, ranging from 23 to 24 Karats and freed of any other metal that could be toxic. 

Many edible metals may consist of a small amount of another safe metal, for instance,  silver, which is also satisfactory to digest.

What can we use instead of edible gold?

The most inexpensive substitute for gold is imitation gold. It is formed of brass alloy with a composite of copper and zinc. This mixture has been established to generate tones that resemble pure gold. It is referred to as Schlag metal, composition metal or Dutch metal.


In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “Can you eat gold?” with an in-depth analysis of edible gold, the different forms of edible gold, and the uses of edible gold in food and beverages. In addition, we have also discussed the effects of consuming edible gold.