Monday, November 26, 2007

not fit for human consumption

Those cute little mandarin oranges are everywhere at this time of year. The ones we used to get when I was a child came from Japan and were individually wrapped in coloured tissue paper. We called them 'zipper oranges' because the peel just zipped right off. A real treat at Christmas time.

eat at your own risk

Citrus fruit is healthy, right? All that fibre and vitamin C and who knows what other micro-nutrients. But if you live in Germany and were about to dig into those tasty mandarins you bought on the weekend, you may be getting a whole lot more than you bargained for.

The consumer magazine "Öko-Test" has just come out with a study regarding pesticide levels in mandarin oranges in this country. Produce was tested nation-wide and the results are not good at all.

The supermarkets Aldi Süd and Rewe are the very worst offenders - their mandarins showed extremely high levels of contamination. Oranges from Aldi Nord, Edeka, Lidl and Plus didn't fare much better. Although lower levels of pesticides were found in the fruit at Norma, Real and Tengelmann they were also classed as "unacceptable".

Doesn't leave us much choice, does it? According to "Öko-Test", only the organic supermarkets Alnatura and Basic offered mandarins that were completely safe to eat. Pretty scary if you ask me.

Pesticide comtamination is nothing new in Germany. There are frequent reports of contaminated produce (mostly peppers and strawberries) coming from Spain, Italy and Turkey but this is the first time I've seen a warning sent out about oranges. This could be the tip of the iceberg

By the way, if you're going to use freshly grated orange, lemon or lime peel in your holiday baking, please make sure you buy organic fruit. The peel of the regular citrus fruits is NOT safe to eat and usually says so right on the label. And nope, scrubbing doesn't help.

I'm going to go clean out the vegetable crisper now. There must be SOMETHING in there that's edible!

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At November 26, 2007 12:41 p.m., Blogger C N Heidelberg said...

Ew. We ate those things by the crateload last winter during class! There were piles of peel all over the classroom...

At November 26, 2007 1:14 p.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

Mandarins are only available for something like 3 weeks out of the year in Switzerland, as opposed to those vile clementines, so I'm afraid I'm going to eat them while I can and hope that the Swiss get their mandarinlis from a different source from the Germans!

At November 26, 2007 1:25 p.m., Blogger christina said...

cn heidelberg - I know! We've already eaten a ton of them and now I'm afraid I've poisoned my kids. :-( We'll see if they come out with any safe levels of how many you can eat.

ms mac - Yes, we get the mandarins at first too, and then the clementines with the seeds. I don't know anything about the mandarin situation in Switzerland but I'd assume they all have the same distributors. Who knows?

At November 26, 2007 3:29 p.m., Blogger Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert said...

Hi Christina,

I am looking for bilingual families for mini case-studies for a new book on Siblings & Bilingualism. I love your blog! Your family is fascinating!

You can read about my project at my blog:

or email me:

Thanks,hope to hear from you soon..

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

At November 26, 2007 4:37 p.m., Blogger Rositta said...

Shit, the list gets bigger all the time doesn't it. We get ours from Morocco so I don't know how safe they are either. But there is already a whole list of stuff we don't eat any more like Shrimp from China just to name one. Can you really trust Organic labels though, that is the question...ciao

At November 26, 2007 4:44 p.m., Blogger sognatrice said...

Times like these that I'm so happy that we have our own citrus trees and only eat our fruit or fruit given to us as gifts from friends and neighbors--nobody uses any kind of pesticides around here.

Very sad news for you indeed :(

At November 26, 2007 6:54 p.m., Blogger Betsy said...

AAARRRRRGGGGG! I've got a bowl of them on my kitchen counter right now and have been including them with my kids' snacks for school!

The irony is that just about everything else I'm buying is organic-- but clemintines are a weakness of mine.

excuse me. were. were a weakness...

At November 26, 2007 7:47 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

OMG, Christina. I had no idea! What a shame!!!!

At November 26, 2007 10:12 p.m., Blogger heather said...

yikes! thanks for the info.

At November 27, 2007 12:08 a.m., Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

Yeah, but don't you wash them beforehand? I always do, regardless of the fruit I'm eating.

At November 27, 2007 2:06 a.m., Anonymous lillian said...

Oh good thing they don't test those fruits here.. many of the villages have skin problems due to all the pestesides. I doupt Germany is any worse than any other country in the world.. the regulations and 'tolerance levels' are lower. :-)

At November 27, 2007 6:37 a.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

hey - I nominated you for an award, come check it out.

At November 27, 2007 6:43 a.m., Anonymous ian in hamburg said...

That was on the tv news last night. They showed how you should wash them beforehand, then wash your hands before eating the fruit. No thanks!

Yet another reason to buy bio, despite the cost.

Oh - and remember how the Mandarin oranges at home used to come in wooden crates? They'd have a big splash in the papers when the first boat from Japan came in. We used to call them Japanese oranges.

At November 27, 2007 8:56 a.m., Blogger Andrea said...

Umm, eew! I was going to give mine to my kids for lunch. I've already had a few of them. I bought them at Hit. I think they will be heading to the trash!

At November 27, 2007 1:33 p.m., Blogger Mar said...

Saw the news yesterday... it's hard to find safe things to eat nowadays...

At November 27, 2007 4:52 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

I never buy Bio stuff except for lemons because I don't want those damn pesticides in the rind messin' up my martinis. The other day, I saw Bio cigarettes at the local kiosk and I thought I might give them a try (even though I don't smoke). They're organic, so they must be good for you...right?

At November 27, 2007 7:53 p.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

I wonder what was in the fruit and veggies we ate as kids! There were a lot of pesticides then and no one really cared. I'm just hoping it made our genration stronger (buildung anti-bodies)

Luckily, my Grandma had a vegetable garden. I can even remember what tomatoes really taste like! Can't find them anymore... not even the bio ones.

At November 27, 2007 9:59 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

Hey, CS - Obviously all those pesticides you ate as a kid turned your skin blue-green! ;-o

At November 27, 2007 10:02 p.m., Blogger traveller one said...

Eeeeeeeks! That's really frightening!!!!

At November 27, 2007 10:49 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Suzanne - Hi! Yes, we "know" each other from various bilingual families mailing lists. I'll be getting in touch with you soon.

rositta - It sure does, and you wonder about all the stuff they DON'T tell you about. And there's no guarantee that the organic produce is really any better.

sognatrice - You ARE lucky to be able to grow your own fruit. We don't spray our garden either. If it's going to get eaten by bugs, so be it!

Betsy - It's so annoying. Our older son had been taking them as snacks too and my husband just loves them.

ginnie - It truly is a shame that making money seems to come before consumer protection, but I guess it's like that in so many areas.

heather - I'm sure they'll come out with another bomb shell or two during the holiday season.

elemm - Well, they're recommending washing them so you don't have pesticide residue going from your hands to your mouth, BUT the pesticides also get right inside the fruit and there's no way to get rid of that.

lillian - Oh yeah, I think pesticides are used in just about every country. I guess they just bothered to test this time and found levels that were way over whatever they deem "acceptable".

expat - Thanks! I'll get to it tomorrow.

ian - Yep, bio is the way to go. It's just unfortunate that not everyone has the means or opportunity to choose that route.

I loved those crates! We could hardly wait until the oranges came in at Christmas time.

andrea - It's pretty freaky because kids usually enjoy them so much. I'd expect that most supermarkets get their stuff from the same suppliers so one place will be as bad as the next. Don't know if they tested Hit or not.

mar - It really is difficult. I guess we all just have to do the best we can and try to inform ourselves.

TBF - Yeah, I buy the bio lemons sometimes and if our supermarket happens to have other organic stuff on offer I'll sometimes buy it. They have bio everything here - all full of fat and sugar but organic all the way!

CanSwiss- Sure, I bet we've all ingested our fair share of pesticides along the way and no one said a thing about it. I don't know how strict the rules are in Germany, but it does seem to be a problem.

traveller one - It is scary all right. I'm waiting to see how the supermarkets react.

At November 28, 2007 2:20 a.m., Blogger Runaway Rubber Duckie said...

Wow, that is really scary. And on the ship I don't even have a choice!

At December 01, 2007 4:38 a.m., Blogger Berlinbound said...

I had no idea - I just bought a big bag of them at the farmers market yesterday. Thanks for the info.


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