London & Surrey | Complimentary Cake Delivery


Can you decorate cakes with plastic toys?

We get lots of requests for custom novelty cakes at our bakery. Often, they are for favourite animals, superheroes such as Batman, Spiderman etc or Disney princesses and children's book characters, eg: Gruffalo.

Safari Animal Jungle Cake

To bring these themes to life, you need the character to feature on the cake. The two most popular ways to do this is by using hand-modelled edible fondant figures, or by using plastic toys. Let's look at the differences below:

Fondant Figures

Materials: These are usually made with fondant (sugarpaste) or gum paste. They are coloured using food colourings and are non-toxic and edible. Sometimes they may include cocktail sticks or food-safe wires.

Flavour: SWEET. As it's nearly 100% sugar, these figurines taste terribly sweet, however, children still seem to like them.

Aesthetics: Depending on the skill of the cake maker, figurines can look incredible. Kids especially love them as seeing a beloved character in food form is fun.

Cost: Due to high labour costs (a figurine can take a few to several hours to create) these can be expensive.

Environmental Impact: Edible and fully bio-degradable.

Plastic Toys

Materials: Polymers such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a widely used hard rigid  plastic to make lots of household goods, including toys such as Barbie dolls and action hero figures. Can also contain additives such as colourants and plasticisers to soften rigid plastic for bath toys and squeezies.

Flavour: Not to be ingested.

Aesthetics: Highly detailed and true to character, plastic toys will be instantly recognisable and often have a high gloss finish. 

Cost: Economical and children will appreciate having a toy to play with after.

Environmental Impact: Non bio degradable. Adds to landfill.

Are plastic toys legally allowed on cakes?

I went in between contacting the Food Standards Agency ("FSA"), our Environmental Health Officer ("EHO") and Trading Standards to find the regulations that pertain to this issue.

According to The Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012 from the FSA, Part 8, Section 18:

(1) Materials and articles, other than those materials and articles controlled by Regulation 10/2011, which are manufactured with vinyl chloride polymers or copolymers —
(a)must not contain vinyl chloride monomer in a quantity exceeding 1 milligram per kilogram of the material or article; and
(b)must be manufactured in such a way that they do not transfer to foods with which they are in contact any quantity of vinyl chloride exceeding 0.01 milligrams of vinyl chloride per kilogram of food.
(2) No person may —
(a)place on the market; or
(b)use in the course of a business in connection with the storage, preparation, packaging, selling or service of food,
any material or article that does not comply with paragraph (1).


PVC may contain harmful substances like phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA), and colourants which can leach into food and pose health risks if ingested, such as hormonal disruptions, developmental and reproductive toxicity.

As most toys will not come with food-safe certification (which would have food transfer tests), from a legal stand-point, plastic toys are not allowed to be sold when in contact with food, including cake.

But children put toys in their mouths and are fine, so why can't they be put on cakes?

Toy manufacturers have to observe many regulations in order to make sure their products are safe for children. Whilst they are tested to be non-toxic for their intended use, ie playing, they are not stress tested for use in conjunction with food. 

The toy hasn't been stress tested for extreme temperatures eg: going into a fridge/freezer and back outdoors, placed next to a candle's flame. The toy also has not been tested for particle migration via fatty or acidic foods.

So, unless a toy has been labelled explicitly as food-safe, it cannot be assumed to be safe to be in contact with food. And most toys are not labelled as such.

From a common sense angle, have you ever seen the supermarket giants or commercial bakeries sell plastic toys on cakes? No. Supermarkets are hot on trends and are commercially focused. They would jump at the opportunity to decorate birthday cakes with plastic toys as an inexpensive product that would have instant popularity with their customers. So why don't they do it? Because it is unlawful for the above reasons.

Marvel Cake to Buy

Budget Constraints

Fondant figurines are often more expensive, and by quite a margin, than plastic toys. Plus, plastic toys have the added benefit of being used as a toy after the cake has been served. Customers may ask for toys on cakes, and may send photos of cakes with toys on in their enquiries. But should you sell them a cake with a toy on?

It's a risk you would have to consider fully, bearing in mind it is unlawful to do so. If there are any complaints with regards to adverse affects on health (short or LONG term), this could lead to the following:

1. A personal injury claim against you or your business

2. Your customer can easily report you to the FSA and your local EHO who would conduct an investigation and you could be fined (or worse).

3. If you have used non food-safe elements on your cake, your business insurance will be invalidated.

Sure, it might be hard to prove that any adverse effects were as a direct result of particle transfers to food from plastic, however, could you afford the risk of facing a legal claim, the time and financial costs of defending such claim, a fine (or worse) and possibly a bad review as the cherry on top?

If budgets cannot accommodate fondant figurines, there are other ways to include favourite characters on a cake. Suggesting edible printed artwork on icing is one way.

If the customer insists on plastic toys, you can suggest it being added at their own risk after delivery. This way liability is limited and the customer is in full control where they may be able to clean the toy and add it to the cake for a few moments before presenting and swiftly removing.

Under the Sea Cake

Our Bakery's Policy on Plastic Toys

As a leading London bakery, we have a policy of not using any non-food safe decorations on our cakes (this includes chocolate and sweet wrappers, alcohol miniature bottles, and fresh flowers). Based on the customer's budget, we will either create hand-modelled edible figurines or use edible printed icing artwork.

I hope this article has helped amidst all the misinformation and hearsay online. If you are a hobbyist or home baker thinking about baking professionally drop any queries below in comments.

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