What’s Coating Your Fruits & Veggies?

Clementines, if you are not familiar with them, are type of orange. They are slightly smaller, seedless, easy to peel, and very sweet. You can find them in supermarkets produce section, usually in netted bags such as above.

Being the label readers that we are, the following information from the back of the package caught our eye:

Coated with food grade vegetable, beeswax and/or

lac based wax or resin to maintain freshness.  May be

treated with one or more of the following: thiabendazole,

orthophenyl phenol and/or imazalil

What are all these funny sounding chemicals doing on fruit you may ask?

What you need to know:

This bag of clementines made it all the way from Chile to America. That’s quite a journey for citrus fruit, who are susceptible to a variety of molds. That’s why they are lightly waxed and treated with antifungal chemicals.

thiabendazole – a fungicide used in the wax covering fruit. In high doses it may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, or headaches, but since we don’t eat orange peels, there should be no problem.

orthophenyl phenol (E231)) – this is another fungicide applied post harvest to citrus fruits. It may cause a burning sensation in the eyes upon contact, but is considered safe.

imazalil – another fungicide, considered safe.

Why would citrus fruit need so much protection? Well, these babies come a long way to our supermarkets. All the way from Chile in South America. Keeping mold away is a big challenge and that’s where all these fungicides come into play.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you buy your fruit in season, there is a much lower need to spray them with fungicides.

In any case, it is a good idea to wash your oranges and citrus fruit before peeling. Wash extra careful if you plan to use the zest or make candy out of the peel.

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  • Cindy

    When I moved to Florida in 1978, the most interesting thing I learned was that oranges aren’t really all that orange — they’re somewhere between light orange and yellow, and sometimes with a little green in there. Those oranges you buy in the store, that are so perfectly colored, have been PAINTED that color. Take heed.

    • http://twitter.com/lauren_015 Lauren Smith

      I’ve never heard this before. Can anyone else validate this?

      • Cindy

        Oranges do not grow that perfectly orange on orange trees. I was amazed when I moved there and found the neighbor boys using oranges as practice balls for baseball/softball! But what was most amazing is that the color was so different. I had no idea until then that oranges are not perfectly orange!

      • guestie

        it’s true. they’re multicolored, orange, yellow, green, brown… on one orange, but according to consumers (or wholesale buyers), a multicolored orange isn’t as pretty as an orange orange

  • Cartoonguy_99

    “…but since we don’t eat orange peels, there should be no problem…”

    Um, ever heard of ‘zesting’ an orange, lemon, or a lime? Yes we do eat the peel.

    • Cindy

      oh but we do eat orange peel…

  • Litha13

    On the other hand, clementines do not have peels that are appropriate for zesting because they’re often so thin in the first place.

    They do also mention zesting. It’s the very last line “Wash extra careful if you plan to use the zest or make candy out of the peel.”

  • Vivisue

    The validation is on the bag.  I won’t even let a server bring me lemons or limes for my water/tea.  Good info!

  • Harry Hamil

    I have never raised
    citrus so everything I am writing is second hand.

    I believe that you will find that most of the anti-fungals are sprayed to make
    certain that the fruit meets the grade 1 standard.  With the exception of
    certified organic fruit, the State of FL won’t allow anything but grade one fruit to
    leave the state.  My guess is that the same is true in Chili. 


    Several years ago, a citrus
    growing friend who was transitioning to certified organic decided to simply not
    spray.  The result was fruit with mottled skin and a perfect
    interior.  As our customers wanted unsprayed, it was perfect for us!

    The wax is to increase shelf life.  It keeps the fruit from dehydrating as
    quickly and allows for cold storage.  Even certified organic permits
    organic waxes.


    And don’t forget:  Way back in 1977, in the movie, “Oh God,” the
    fact that the assistant manager in a supermarket refused to wax the cucumbers
    in his produce department was one of the reasons that God, played by George
    Burns chose the character played John Denver to be his messenger to the world.


  • Jan

    Thiabendazole is an ingredient used in animal wormers, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ve given the horses. 

  • Veronica

    A great way to clean fruits and vegetables is with a spray bottle of vinegar and another of peroxide.  This probably doesn’t remove wax, but it does take care of the other grime that may be riding along that piece of fruit.
    “Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, worked out the recipe for just such a sanitizing combo. All you need is three percent hydrogen peroxide, the same strength available at the drug store for gargling or disinfecting wounds, and plain white or apple cidar vinegar, and a pair of brand new clean sprayers, like the kind you use to dampen laundry before ironing. If you’re cleaning vegetables or fruit, just spritz them well first with both the vinegar and the hydrogen peroxide, and then rinse them off under running water.”


  • attan_d

    What about the additive efects of pesticidal sprays or granular applications?

  • http://www.healthfoodisjunk.wordpress.com KunkelKate

    I’m definitely guilty of washing my fresh fruits and veggies in a slipshod manner. It’s scary to think of the unnatural substances that could be entering my body along with my tasty and nutritious snacks.

    With products like oranges and clementines, I don’t even think to wash them because I don’t eat the peels. But with all the chemicals we coat onto our foods these days, we have to think twice before allowing ourselves to ingest even an innocent little orange.

    Thanks for the information! What a great reminder that we need to be careful when eating any type of food, even all-natural foods like fresh fruits.

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  • Jaime Platt Carnley

    First: Clementines are tangerines not oranges. They are both citrus fruits :)

    Second: If you don’t like the sprays and wax coating, try buying your fruit from local growers instead of the supermarket. Even if you don’t live in an agriculture area, it’s still better to seek out fruit grown and shipped within your own country.

  • gabriela
  • gabriela
  • Jill, The Veggie Queen

    I buy my fruit at the farmer’s market. It has been grown fairly locally buy peole that I know and trust. There is nothing coating the fruit which is what I like. I buy it weekly and i am most grateful that I can do this.

    Thank you for posting this and continuing to educate people about important matters.

  • Hugs and kisses

    Great post

  • http://plus.google.com/b/114818149155860337287/114818149155860337287/posts devouringone3

    Imazalil / enilcolazole / chloramizole is now an established CARCINOGEN

    Its upper safe intake set by the Environmental Protection Agency and United Stated Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program is the equivalent of 3 oranges for adults and 2 oranges for children.

    I think you have to eat the peel though (as the chemical is applied postharvest)… which I used to do, until today.