Carbon Black

Carbon black

There are two black food dyes that seem to get confused. At least, they confuse me. The differences and the naming of the two are unclear. In fact, it seems that the same name, carbon black, is often used for both. They are:

  • Carbon Black (E 152), and
  • Vegetable Black (E 153)
Picture of a black splash for carbon black post

Carbon Black


Carbon Black

Carbon Black is an artificial food dye. Other names include Black 7984, Food Black 2, and C.I. 27755.

The chemical formula is C26H15N5Na4O13S4. In other words, it is made from carbon (C), hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), sodium (Na), oxygen (O), and sulphur (S).

It is a brown-to-black azo dye.

It is not permitted in the U.S., E.U, Japan, or Australia1.


Vegetable carbon is produced by steam activation of carbonized vegetable material2. It can used both as a food colouring and as a medication (it can be used to absorb chemicals).

Other names include vegetable carbon, CI 77266, charcoal, Norit

The chemical formula is C3. That means, it is simply made from carbon (C), although there may also be impurities.

While approved for use in the European Union and Canada4, it has not been approved in the U.S.5


  1. Ingredients Wizard (Black 7984)
  2. European Food Safety Authority – Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of vegetable carbon (E 153) as a food additive
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Vegetable Carbon
  4. Qualitative determination of carbon black in food products
  5. Food Additives Permitted for Use In Canada
Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients

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