GRAS essential oils?
I keep seeing this question and after our last post on ingestion, I believe it deserves some discussion. So, let’s talk about GRAS and how it relates to essential oils, shall we?
While essential oils are absolutely used in food products (the beverage industry is the largest oil user), there are guidelines in place for the safety of your customers if you’re running a commercial business in the food industry — we believe that home users would benefit from understanding more about these safety guidelines.
You can go about using GRAS essential oils in prepared foods and beverages as flavorings, but with a commercial business, you really need to know what you’re doing. You can research the guidelines for each oil (and it’s constituents), compare those with parts per million (PPM) guidelines, and formulate accordingly . . . or you can buy a book that lays much of that info out for you. Either way, to cover your own business’ liability, you need to learn about the safety in commercial use before you do it. Many oils used in the flavoring industry are actually “folded.” They’ve been re-distilled to remove some of the constituents that impair use in foods, allowing for more PPM.
Lemon (Citrus x limon) has a FEMA GRAS determination (Flavor and Extract Manufacturers’ Association D-Limonene Monograph, 1-4, 1991) based on the chemical constituent d-limonene, a terpene, of 100 part per million (ppm) (or 0.01%) usage in non-alcoholic beverages. Limonene ranges from 56-76% (Tisserand-Young 2014) in a batch of cold-pressed Lemon rinds, so let’s say you’ve got 75% limonene in your bottle at home your dose per liter would be 74.8655 milligrams. If you don’t have a chemist’s scale at home you can use the general rule of thumb that an average drop of essential oil weighs between 20-30 milligrams. So to dilute your one drop of Lemon essential oil to achieve the GRAS safety level of 100 ppm you’d need 0.3 liters of lemonade: 74.8655 mg/L x 0.3 = 22.26 milligrams or roughly 1 drop Lemon EO. ~ Amy Kreydin, Barefoot Dragonfly, “Essential oils and GRAS: What it really means”
The bitter almond is slightly broader and shorter than the sweet almond and contains about 50% of the fixed oil that occurs in sweet almonds. It also contains the enzyme emulsin which, in the presence of water, acts on soluble glucosides, amygdalin, and prunasin, yielding glucose, cyanide and the essential oil of bitter almonds, which is nearly pure benzaldehyde, the chemical causing the bitter flavor. Bitter almonds may yield from 4–9 mg of hydrogen cyanide per almond and contain 42 times higher amounts of cyanide than the trace levels found in sweet almonds. The origin of cyanide content in bitter almonds is via the enzymatic hydrolysis of amygdalin.
Extract of bitter almond was once used medicinally but even in small doses, effects are severe or lethal, especially in children; the cyanide must be removed before consumption. The acute oral lethal dose of cyanide for adult humans is reported to be 0.5–3.5 mg/kg of body weight (approximately 50 bitter almonds), whereas for children, consuming 5–10 bitter almonds may be fatal. ~ Wikipedia, “Almond: Sweet and Bitter Almonds”
By now, you’re thinking that I’m telling you that you can’t even cook with essential oils. Believe it or not, this is wrong.
When used in a safe and appropriate manner, there aren’t any reasons to fear these precious drops. It’s up to you to do your research. Don’t believe the latest meme, your neighbor, or even your neighbor’s talking dog (he’s not as wise as he says he is). Check those PPMs and be wise. Use in flavoring is very common and safe as long as it’s done with safety in mind!