(Photo by Movita Beaucoup. Used with permission.)
Vegetable carbon is known as vegetable black, carbon black, or carbo medicinalis vegetabilis. It is an insoluble black food colouring used in confectionery products, icing, baked goods and ice cream. European and Canadian authorities approve its use as a colour additive. The United States FDA does not allow its use.
Vegetable carbon is produced through steam activation (charring) of vegetable fibers. The raw materials include peat, nut shells, wood and cellulose residues. Manufacturers ground the activated vegetable source into very small particles before adding glucose or glycerin for ease of use in food. The black pigments are very stable to heat, light and pH range. Suppliers offer forms for both lipid and aqueous applications as a suspension.