In many recipes, when it comes to add some lemon (or orange) zests, the authors advise to choose an organic fruit, because of the pesticides.

I know there is no proof that non-organic fruits and vegetables are more dangerous than organic ones, but I saw that UK Food Safe Agency seems to make a distinction between fruits that are going to be peeled off and the others, when it comes to testing the pesticide residues:

You don't need to wash or peel fruit and vegetables that would not ordinarily be peeled before consumption (for example apples) because of pesticide residues, as no assumption is made that such foods are peeled when deciding whether a pesticide can be approved for use or setting a legal limit (maximum residue level, MRL).

Then, should we prefer organic lemons or oranges, when we want to use their skin in food?

Note: I know there have been many questions here about organic vs non-organic food and safety, but my question is about this peculiar case.

Edit: Changed "no evidence" to "no proof". It seems a better choice of word.

  • Note that 'organic' does not imply 'no pesticides', and sometimes the 'organic' pesticides are more harmful. An answer to this question could never be that zest of an organic piece of lemon is unequivocally safer, only that perhaps the chance of it being bad may or may not be higher.
    – Spork
    Sep 3, 2014 at 10:47
  • 1
    Also, the lemon zest may very well be waxed (nigella.com/kitchen-queries/view/…). So washing is always a good idea. Pesticide residue is washed away in that process of scrubbing too.
    – Spork
    Sep 3, 2014 at 10:49
  • 2
    Is this a duplicate of skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1941/…
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:43
  • @Oddthinking: You might be right, but here it is more about organic vs traditional food.
    – Einenlum
    Sep 4, 2014 at 10:50
  • 1
    I like that this question, unlike a few others about organics (see here, here) focuses on a very specific type of crop. It should allow for much more precise and targeted answers.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:42

1 Answer 1


The intended meaning of the quote you supplied is surely that if the outside of layer of a fruit or vegetable is commonly consumed then this would be taken in to account when setting a maximum residue level (MRL).

Zest of lemon and orange is commonly consumed and therefore those fruits must reasonably be included in the Food Standards Agency's claims about setting an appropriate MRL.

And indeed, Annex 1 on page 4 of this PDF, which is an annex to COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 752/2014 of 24 June 2014, says that the MRL for citrus fruit applies to "Whole product after removal of stems".

This case isn't peculiar and citrus zest is safe (if you accept the Food Standards Agency's claims).

  • 2
    The question was not if it's safe or not, but which of two options is the safer one. Do you have an answer to the question, with sources?
    – Spork
    Sep 3, 2014 at 10:46
  • @Spork I'm not sure: if they are both safe, then perhaps they're (almost absolutely) safe, and it's therefore meaningless to ask which is (relatively) safer.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 3, 2014 at 11:03
  • @Spork The question was whether there is anything in the specific case of lemon/orange pesticide-use that would lead you to substitute for their organic counterpart. The answer is that there is no specific case for lemons/oranges. (Note that the question twice steers us away from a general organic/non-organic comparison)
    – jsh
    Sep 3, 2014 at 12:40
  • @Spork this is inexact: the question is about whether it is safer because of the pesticides. Showing that there are no harmful level of pesticides proves they are just as safe, i.e. "safe enough for human consumption".
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:47
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    I can follow that reasoning - I stand corrected.
    – Spork
    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:55

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