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.