Activated carbon: Avoiding black food is better

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Consumer protectors warn against activated carbon in foodstuffs
In the past it has been repeatedly criticised that activated carbon is used in cosmetics, although the benefits of this substance have not been clearly demonstrated. In the meantime, medical charcoal is also frequently used in food. Consumer protectors warn, however, against such black foods.

An ingredient advertised as “natural
For years there has been a real hype about activated carbon. Especially now on Halloween, there are many black-colored foods on the shelves: from smoothies to pizzas to burgers, the spectrum ranges. Consumers are promised a detoxifying effect or lured by the idea of trying something completely new. But the trend towards the ingredient advertised as “natural” is not as harmless as it seems, warns the Saxony-Anhalt consumer advice centre in a press release.

Activated carbon does not have a substance-specific effect
Activated carbon (also called medical carbon) is carbon that remains after drying of raw materials such as lime wood or coconut shells.

Heating creates a large surface area and the coal acquires its adsorbing effect, it becomes “active”.

One gram of activated carbon covers a surface area of 1,300 square meters and more. This binds many different substances.

In medicine, activated carbon is used for poisoning and gastrointestinal problems, which is why it is also advertised in other contexts as “detoxifying”. The problem is that activated carbon does not have a substance-specific effect.

“Not only poisons are bound, but also other important contents materials present in the food such as Vitamine and mineral materials , so Tabea Dorendorf, Referat food of the consumer center Saxonia-Anhalt.

Impairment of drug action
In addition, the effect of drugs may be impaired. In people who do not suffer from diarrhoea, the intake of activated carbon often leads to constipation, in the worst case to intestinal obstruction.

Although the amounts of activated carbon used in food may appear low at first glance, an activated carbon content of 0.4 percent, as found in a commercially available 250 ml smoothie, corresponds to a total amount of about one gram of activated carbon.

“This means that a single smoothie contains approximately the drug dose of three to four activated carbon tablets,” says Dorendorf. In contrast to drugs, however, smoothies do not contain any warnings of side effects.

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