Are Copper Mugs Safe?

Lined copper mug holding a moscow mule inside

Copper mugs are safe to drink from, and most Moscow mule mugs are lined with another material that fully eliminates the concern of copper exposure and copper toxicity. Even with an unlined mug, copper poisoning is only possible if there is a great amount of copper exposure to the body. As we explain below, it is improbable that a guest will be exposed to such a large amount of copper when drinking out of a copper mug at a bar.

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Is It Safe to Drink out of Unlined Copper Mugs?

2 unlined copper mugs holding moscow mules surrounded by mint leaves

Unlined copper mugs are generally safe to drink out of, as copper toxicity is highly unlikely. According to a study done by the National Research Council (US) Committee, copper toxicity symptoms only occurred after ingesting 30 milligrams of copper per liter that had been sitting in an unlined, pure copper mug for hours.

This means that a guest would need to consume a liter’s worth of Moscow mules that had been sitting in an unlined copper mug for several hours before copper poisoning is a possibility.

Lined vs. Unlined Copper Mugs

top view of icy cold moscow mules with ginger beer and vodka on black background

Copper toxicity is not likely for the Moscow mule lover drinking out of a pure, unlined copper mug. Nevertheless, it is impossible to rule out the potential. As a result, some bar owners might prefer to stock up on lined copper mugs for easier upkeep, fewer health concerns, or to comply with state regulations on lined copper mug use. Many copper mugs that you will find for purchase are copper-plated over stainless steel, nickel, or tin, or are lined with those materials.

Copper Mug Safety

Safety concerns regarding the copper mug were raised when the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division issued an advisory bulletin in July of 2017. In this report, the Division notified the public that Iowa would no longer serve cocktails in unlined copper mugs based on the FDA’s stance.

Why Did Iowa Ban Unlined Copper Mugs?

Iowa banned unlined copper mugs in accordance with the FDA's suggestion. The FDA asserts that copper may leach from an unlined copper mug into food and beverage that has a pH lower than 6. As such, the FDA suggests that establishments do not allow copper to contact food and drink with that acidity level. A Moscow mule falls under this category because lime juice and ginger beer both have a pH lower than 6.

However, many states allow unlined copper cup use in bars. Be sure to check with your state regulations to see which type of copper mug to use.

Unlined or lined copper mugs are both unlikely to cause copper poisoning at your bar. To fully ensure drinking safety, make sure to properly care for your copper mugs. When these mugs are correctly maintained, your guests can enjoy drinking from this quaint, special cup for years to come.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries|Food Safety|By Hannah Herrera
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