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Children poisoned by birthday cake decorations loaded with lead, copper

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A recent baking trend of using “luster dusts” to give cake frostings and decorations a shimmery look has poisoned young children with heavy metals in at least two states, health researchers warn in a new report published Friday.

A toxic birthday cake for a 1-year-old left six children (ages 1 to 11) severely ill with vomiting and diarrhea after an October 2018 birthday party in Rhode Island. One child needed to be taken to the emergency room.

Investigators from the Rhode Island Department of Health traced the illnesses to the cake’s thick layer of frosting laced with a rose gold “luster dust.” The cake was produced in a commercial bakery, and the health investigators identified three possible sources of the bakery’s luster dust. One was an importer who identified the dust as “fine copper powder” that was initially sold as “metallic pigment for consumer goods such as floor coverings.” Though the dust was labeled “nontoxic,” it was also labeled “nonedible.”

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