You’re planning a birthday party, something amazing for someone amazing, and you want it to be memorable. So you hire a great DJ and book a swank venue, but you’re looking for one more thing to set it apart, and then it hits you – glow-in-the-dark food and beverages! You start the hunt for recipes and tips. Popping open glow sticks and mixing them in cake frosting is not an option since glow sticks are toxic. But in your quest, you start seeing the word “bioluminescence” come up, and wonder if that might solve the problem.
This is actually a question that GoldBio has been asked many times. People wonder if they could buy luciferin and mix it in food and drinks to make them glow.
It ’s a cool idea! But, unfortunately, the answer is no. Luciferin is not the way to go about this.
First, GoldBio products are not for human or animal consumption. Our products should not be orally ingested or administered as food, medicine or supplements. GoldBio products are for research purposes only.
Second, the way the luciferin-luciferase chemical reaction works causes another obstacle in your party planning. Making food glow with luciferin alone will not work. The substrate requires the luciferase enzyme along with other reagents in specific conditions.
There was a kit called Food Magic. It incorporated the mechanics of bioluminescence into one of its recipes. Food Magic came with instructions and supplies for making bioluminescent syrup. Unfortunately, Food Magic does not appear to be available to the market anymore.
Another company, Biolume, tried to commercialize the entertainment aspects of bioluminescence. The company trademarked the brand Lumoness. According to their website, their goal is to “illuminate a new segment in the food, beverage, cosmetic and medical imaging markets with natural bioluminescence.” It is unclear how far they have gotten with this mission since there are no products listed, and searching for Lumoness food or cosmetics leads to unrelated results.
So currently, commercializing luciferin or coelenterazine for food and beverages has led to a dead end.
In doing further research on bioluminescent food, there was some hope when discovering that Japan has a delicacy called firefly squid. The squid produces a beautiful, bioluminescent, blue glow, and is delicious. But they lack their glowing abilities once they’re boiled or fried and ready for eating.
Even though bioluminescence doesn’t offer much hope when planning an unforgettable event, you're not out of luck. There is another option to consider, fluorescence. Fluorescence occurs when an object containing phosphors has absorbed light and then emits light. It differs from bioluminescence, which uses a chemical reaction to produce light. One way to achieve fluorescence is with UV light (black light).
So what offers the ability to fluoresce and is safe for food? Tonic water. Tonic water contains the chemical quinine that fluoresces under black light. There are still some minor safety considerations when using tonic water: Anyone who suffers abnormal heart beat, has low blood sugar, is pregnant, has kidney or liver disease or is taking medications should avoid tonic water.
A helpful tip when exploring or experimenting with your own tonic water recipes is that the more opaque the primary ingredients are the less effect tonic water will have under a black light. There is also fear that tonic water might negatively alter the flavor of your food or drinks. Oftentimes, sugar is the best way to keep things tasting good. There are many other recipes online that you can find to give you more tips on how to balance the ingredients so that everything tastes great.
Tonic water and black lights might not be quite the solution you were looking for, but it is safe, cost-effective, has a cool effect, is very easy to work with and gives you the ability to experiment and customize.
If you’re interested in exploring other things that glow under black light that might lend to your party planning, here are a few web articles that might be helpful:
- Things that Glow Under Ultra Violet Light
- Host a Glow-in-the-Dark Party
- How to Make Glow in the Dark Face Paint
But please…don’t consume the luciferin.
Betton, P. (2011, November 06). Host a glow-in-the-dark party. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/8870854/Host-a-glow-in-the-dark-party.html
Biolume Home. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2018, from http://biolume.net/
Helmenstine, A. (2017, October 31). How To Make Glow in the Dark Face Paint. Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://sciencenotes.org/how-to-make-glow-in-the-dark-face-paint/
Helmenstine, A. M. (2018, July 10). 16 Things That Glow Under Black or Ultraviolet Light. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-glows-under-a-black-light-607615
Ijmiers1. (2017, October 19). Glow in the Dark Jello! Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://www.instructables.com/id/Glow-in-the-Dark-Jello/
Sykes, T. (2011, March 7). Fancy a Pancake that Glows in the Dark? The Willy Wonka Kit that Adds Magic to Meals. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1361336/Heston-Blumenthal-inspired-kitchen-chemistry-kit-glow-dark-pancake-recipe.html
Travowolf. (2017, October 19). How to Make Glow-In-The Dark Punch for Halloween. Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-glow-in-the-dark-punch-for-Halloween/
Web Japan. (n.d.). Toyama: Firefly Squid. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://web-japan.org/kidsweb/local/firefly-squid/index.html
GoldBio Marketing Director
"To understand the universe is to understand math." My 8th grade
math teacher's quote meant nothing to me at the time. Then came
college, and the revelation that the adults in my past were right all
along. But since math feels less tangible, I fell for biology and have
found pure happiness behind my desk at GoldBio, learning, writing
and loving everything science.
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