Food safety officials in Chennai have asked eateries in the city to not use activated charcoal as an additive in proprietary food, according to a report by The Hindu. Nutritionists and officials say that it is not a permitted food additive.
A Ramakrishnan, a designated officer from the Tamil Nadu Food Safety Department told the newspaper that the office has written to establishments to not use the product as an additive in products including Indian recipes.
A doctor at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital told the publication that activated charcoal is used as a “universal antidote” for poisoning by toxic substances such as pesticides or plant poisoning. He added that powdered charcoal that is activated with nascent oxygen has increased absorbing capacity hence, when used after a stomach wash, it is absorbs leftover poison.
Meenakshi Bajaj, a dietician with Tamil Nadu’s Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital told the publication that the substance is used as an additive in black coloured food such as black ice cream, black dosa, black burgers among others and that it was fad. She added that the additive is used as a “detox” ingredient but that there no research that has proven the safety of the ingredient and that the USFDA has not permitted the substance as colour additive, food additive and neither is it a valid dietary ingredient.
Activated charcoal is also used to treat drug overdoses, poisoning and to purify air and water, added the report.
The dietician added that the substance has a number of interactions with medications and that those known to have existing conditions related to the gastro-intestinal tract could be adversely affected by consuming activated charcoal.