Moscow Mules, a popular drink made of vodka, ginger beer, ice, and lime, are well-known for the picturesque copper mugs they are often served in. Iowa health officials are now warning that those very same mugs can cause copper poisoning.

In an advisory bulletin by the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Division, health officials point out that foods with a pH below 6.0, such as like liquids like vinegar, fruit juice, and wine, should not come in direct contact with copper. A Moscow Mule, beloved by many, just so happens to have a pH well below 6.0, which means copper mugs with copper interiors should not at all be used with this drink.

“High concentrations of copper are poisonous and have caused foodborne illness,” the division noted. “When copper and copper alloy surfaces contact acidic foods, copper may be leached into the food.”

Iowa is one of many states that follow the Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code that prohibits copper from coming into contact with such foods. And in an effort to enforce this, the division put out the notice to advise licensed and permitted places selling alcoholic drinks in copper of the federal guidance and state regulations regarding this.

“The acid that results from mixing water and carbon dioxide leaches copper from the plumbing components and the leachate is then transferred to beverages, causing copper poisoning,” the division informed. “Backflow prevention devices constructed of copper and copper alloys can cause, and have resulted in, the leaching of both copper and lead into carbonated beverages.”

For someone exposed to copper poisoning, symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice, according to the National Institutes of Health. And while acute or sudden copper poisoning is rare, long term-exposure to copper can result in serious health problems, NIH says. In cases of severe poisoning, individuals can cause liver of failure of death.

While drinking Moscow Mules from a copper mug poses a health risk, Bill Marler a lawyer who specializes in food-poisoning cases says the risk of getting copper poisoning from this drink alone is relatively low. A person would have to be drinking from a copper cup “every meal of every day for 25 years,” he told Business Insider.

“You’re at more risk for alcohol poisoning,” Marler said.

Copper mugs seemingly are to Moscow Mules what icing is to cake, but servers don’t have to worry about ditching the copper mug altogether. Instead, copper mugs with interiors made of other metals such as nickel or stainless steel can be used in order to avoid the risk of copper poisoning, Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division says.

Feature Image via Flickr/Shelby Bell

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