Black (as in charcoal) is the new food and drink trend

Charcoal in food? Yes, it’s a thing. Activated charcoal began appearing on menus and Instagram accounts this year in everything from cocktails to pizza crusts. But is it good for you? 

Ordering a beverage or meal in that distinct shade of grey or black is especially popular among millennial customers.

But does eating small amounts of activated charcoal give the consumer any real health benefits? Specialists from UW Medicine and the University of Washington School of Pharmacy weighed in, saying that while the small amounts of activated charcoal used in the food won’t harm you, it really doesn’t help with cleansing, reducing gas or helping with digestion. And consumers should check with their doctors if they are on medications such as birth control or blood pressure medication.

UW Medicine dietician Judy Simon was surprised to learn of the trend and dismissed it as a fad that will soon go the way of sprinkling gold flake in drinks. (Remember that?) Activated charcoal is used by emergency doctors to treat poisoning cases, since the charcoal binds to whatever is in the patient’s stomach.

“A small amount is probably safe,” she said.

Lingtak-Neander Chan, vice chair of UW's School of Pharmacy, agreed, adding that having a small amount in your ice cream “is fun and you can enjoy it.”

Chan said 25 grams is the amount used in emergency departments to treat poisoning cases, and taking a small amount with food is OK. But he cautioned against taking more than 10 grams of activated charcoal within the same hour of taking prescription medicine. 

See downloadable video on the topic.

Media contact: Barbara Clements, 206.221.6706,

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