ZEST FOR LIFE?
Do you ever use "zest" gratings from lemon, orange, or lime peel in your cooking? Do you eat marmalade on your toast or use candied citrus peels in fruitcake? Or do you use commercial citrus flavoring, made from the oily, intensely flavored peel of citrus fruits?
If so, you may be surprised to learn that the manufacturers of dicofol, a pesticide widely used on citrus and cotton crops in southwestern Unites States, have said that 90 percent of the chemical stays in the outer peel of the citrus fruit, "which is not used for food." Shirley Briggs of the Rachel Carson Council* was the only person representing the general public who was present at the 1985 meeting of the EPAs Scientific Advisory Panel on pesticides, at which this statement was made. Hers was the lone voice pointing out the many ways in which the outer peel of citrus fruit is used in food.
What is dicofol and do we need to try to avoid products that contain it? It is oil-soluable, which means that it concentrates in the oily outer peel. Not only is it chemically like DDT, in 1983 it was found to contain 9 to 15 percent DDT, though DDT had been banned in this country since 1972. In addition to DDT, it contains three other DDT-related pesticides, all hazardous to human health, persistent in the environment, and bioaccumulating in the food chain. Since 1983, the EPA has been playing around with the risk-benefit analysis of dicofol and has finally gotten the manufacturers to promise a reduction of these four contaminants to 2.5 percent by December 31, 1988, and 0.1 percent by March 31, 1989. About the EPAs risk-benefit analysis, Briggs has said, "Risks are mostly borne by others than those who gain from the benefits." It seems clear that if we consumers want some benefits those of zestful foods we had best avoid the risks those of sprayed citrus fruits. We can look for unpesticided, "organic" sources.
A fumigant commonly used on citrus fruits from 1948 to the mid-eighties is ethylene dibromide, determined in 1975 to cause cancer. At the EPA and FDA hearings on cancellation of EDB in 1984, Briggs had also heard that citrus peels "are not used for food." On listening to her insist that peels are used for food, an FDA official was interested enough to ask what the enhancement of toxicity might be between the alcohol and the EDB on the lemon peel in his martini. No one had an answer.
*Briggs, Shirley A., Beware the Zest of the Lemon, Lime, Orange, Kumquant, Grapefurit, Rachel Carson Council, Inc., 1988.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIV, No. 1, Winter 1989, page 4.