Black is in when it comes to food. Activated charcoal from burnt coconut shells, wood, or other plants is being used to color ice cream, juices, hot dogs, biscuits, and even cheese.
Where can you find such foods? Health food stores nationwide are showcasing charcoal juices and waters, Morgenstern’s in NYC broke headlines featuring coconut ash ice cream, and to celebrate 10 years in Japan IKEA featured black hot dogs for $2.95.
Activated charcoal has been used for centuries and continues to be used today in emergency rooms around the world. It binds easily to substances and has been lifesaving if someone ingests poison or overdoses. The charcoal will bind to the drug or chemical and prevent it from being absorbed by the body.
While small amounts used in food is unlikely to cause harm, the safety of long-term use has not been studied. Researchers are concerned regular charcoal use could bind to vitamins and minerals in food and drinks, depriving the body of nutrients it needs.
Claims that it cures a hangover are also unlikely; it would take twice the typical dose used for poisoning to bind alcohol from one beer.
Despite numerous health claims, activated charcoal is unlikely to do a lot of good unless you’re been poisoned. We don’t recommend jumping on the charcoal juice or water craze, but small amounts in food or drinks is likely safe.