Toxic Copper Mugs: Your Moscow Mule May Be Poisoning You

August 9, 2017
Toxic copper mugs - Dr. Axe

The Moscow mule — an alcohol beverage that includes vodka, ginger beer and lime — is surging in popularity over recent years. Why? The trendy, picture-worthy, signature copper mug this drink is served in seems to contribute greatly to the intrigue among younger generations. Unfortunately, however, a recent advisory bulletin from the Alcoholic Beverages Division of Iowa warns that these popular mugs aren’t only Instagram ready, they’re likely toxic copper mugs.

Toxic Copper Mugs: A Moscow Mule Warning

High concentrations of copper are poisonous and can cause foodborne illness. When copper comes into contact with acidic foods or drinks, it can trigger leaching. Iowa, along with many other states, is adopting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code, which “prohibits copper from coming into direct contact with foods that have a pH below 6.0.”

Examples of foods with a pH below 6.0 include acidic foods such as vinegar, chocolate, cheese, nuts, fruit juice, black tea, wine and more. The pH of a traditional Moscow mule is well below 6.0. That means that following the federal Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code, copper mugs with a copper interior may not be used with Moscow mule. Copper mugs lined on the interior with another metal, however, are allowed to be used. Examples of popular, acceptable metals include nickel and stainless steel. (1)

Acute Copper Poisoning Symptoms

Acute copper poisoning is rare, but serious health problems from long-term exposure to copper can occur. Swallowing large amounts of copper may cause: (2)

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Yellow skin (jaundice)

Symptoms of long-term exposure include the above symptoms as well as:

  • Anemia symptoms
  • Burning sensation
  • Chills
  • Convulsions
  • Fever
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Shock
  • Weakness

While drinking an occasional Moscow mule may not cause the severe symptoms associated with long-term copper exposure, it is important to stay aware of your amount of contact with copper, as it can build up over time. When considering copper toxicity, it is also important to factor in cookware, your drinking water and even hormonal birth control.

Some researchers now believe excess copper may even be a surprising cause of dementia. So if you have copper water pipes in your home, you may want to get your water tested for copper and avoid too many Moscow mules.

Toxic Copper Mugs: Better Alternatives

Now, you do not have to stop ordering your favorite alcoholic drink. When ordering a Moscow mule, check to see if your copper mug has an interior lining made from another metal. Mugs lined with nickel or stainless steel are considered safe.

If you’ve chosen to cut alcohol out of your diet or want to enjoy this drink as a “mocktail,” try my Moscow Mule Mocktail recipe below (in a nickel/stainless steel mug, of course! Or just plain glass.):

Moscow Mule Mocktail


  • ½ cup ginger beer
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sparkling water
  • mint leaves
  • lime slice
  • crushed ice


  1. Fill a mug ¾ of the way full with crushed ice.
  2. Mix the ginger beer, fresh lime juice and sparkling water together in the mug filled with ice.
  3. Top with a freshly cut lime slice and a mint leaf.

Final Thoughts on Toxic Copper Mugs

  • High concentrations of copper are poisonous and have been found to cause foodborne illness.
  • The Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code “prohibits copper from coming into direct contact with foods that have a pH below 6.0.” The pH of a traditional Moscow mule is well below 6.0.
  • Mugs lined with nickel or stainless steel are considered safe.
  • Acute copper poisoning is rare, but health problems from long-term exposure to copper can occur, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and yellow skin.

Read Next: The Best & Worst Mocktail Ingredients

From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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  1. Tim on

    Hey guys,

    Curious about Copper Water Bottles. Recently bought one and use it purely for water; nothing else. Sold by a company called YogiBeings who claim that it “supercharges” water by activating antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. I don’t entirely buy these claims, but I like the bottle and Ayurvedic medicine has some scientific backing. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • Leah Zerbe on

      The warning issued about Moscow mules noted that it’s acidic things that cause the leaching. So things like vinegar, chocolate, cheese, nuts, fruit juice, black tea and wine. Still, I have read that copper can leach into water from copper plumbing pipes.

    • Steve on

      Cooking in copper pans was done EVERYWHERE until other products made it too expensive to use for cooking pans jelly mouldy and the like. I wear copper insoles in my shoes because of the deficiency in my diet and they are big sellers for people with arthritic pain in joints. Copper bangles have been used for centuries supports for limbs have copper thread in them diabetic socks can have these too. The USA going mad again or big Parma do often reported trying to stop you feeling well to sell you more chemical drugs? You decide.

  2. Jonathan on

    Copper is an essential nutrient in small quantities. There’s no quantitative evidence produced here that indicates a Moscow Mule is delivering toxic quantities of copper.

  3. Lori Saller on

    What about the new craze of cooking with copper? My husband bought a pan home and I’m hesitant to use it. We are trying to eat and cook as clean as possible.

  4. Ryan on

    This article doesn’t even make sense. We need copper, copper is very alkalizing and detoxifying trace mineral, kinda like using a cast Iron Skillet. Most of us are actually more likely to be copper deficient. Copper has been used as a healthy vessel for hundreds of thousands of years, that’s how they stored there water. I personally recently have been using a pure copper kettle to boil my water for coffee, tea, and for drinking. I’ve noticed a great reduction in my fatigue and chronic pain. Stainless steel is a man made metal, so your telling me that a man made metal is healthier then a pure metal from the earth🙄? We have more chronic disease then man has ever had yet most things are made from synthetic materials verses raw materials. Are Grandparents used copper piping in the house, cast iron skillets to cook and oil and animal fats to moisturize skin, they looked young and felt younger. Okay I’m done ranting.😁

    • Ryan on

      Look up copper water benefits, storing water in a pure copper vessel for 8 hours over night naturally purifies the water. Turning it into a highly alkalizing antioxidant, for copper is an antioxidant. This water rids the body of toxins/carcinogens, helps the thyroid function. And is great for those suffering with an autoimmune disease. I recommend watching 10 amazing health benefits of drinking water from copper vessel on YouTube the Channel/subscription is Natural Cures😁


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