While black might not be the first color we associate with appetizing foods, it’s actually used in many restaurants to intentionally alter a dish’s aesthetic. Activated charcoal is a black powder made from carbon-containing material, like wood or coconut shells, that is heated at high temperatures to create charcoal, then oxidized or “activated,” explains the BBC. The ingredient is often used to blacken food like ice cream, pizza crusts, bagels, and cocktails, and it’s become quite popular to share photos of black foods on Instagram. Now, however, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is deeming the ingredient illegal, following a new rule by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to use activated charcoal in food because it is prohibited by the US Food and Drug Administration as a food additive,” Carolina Rodrigues, spokeswoman for the DOHMH, told the Observer in a statement. While the agency has been urging restaurants to cease using activated charcoal for some time, now it’s official.
The ban will hit especially hard at popular NYC establishments known for their blackened treats. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, for example, is famous for its black ice cream, and recently had to dump $3,000 worth of inventory during an inspection.
Although restaurants will certainly devise an equally photogenic replacement for activated charcoal, for now, NYC Instagrammers will have to get a little more creative with their food pictures.
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