Pass the Methyl Eugenol
Why you should enjoy your Thanksgiving chemical feast.


It is that time of year: parties, presents, family gatherings — and dining-room tables laden with a tempting array of mouthwatering seasonal chemicals.

Chemicals? Yes.

We live in an intensely chemical-phobic society, one where labels and menus advertise foods as being “all-natural” and “purely organic.” Poultry sections offer fryers from “happy, free-range chickens.” “Chemical free” cuisine is in.

So it may come as a shock to you that even an all-natural holiday feast (and every other meal you consume throughout the year) comes with chemicals, including some that are poisonous, others that cause cancer in rats at high doses, and lots with unpronounceable names.

Assume you start with an appetizer, move on to a medley of crisp natural vegetables, and proceed to a traditional stuffed bird with all the trimmings. You wash your meal down with the libations of the season, and top it off with homemade pastries.

You will thus have consumed holiday helpings of various “carcinogens” (defined here as a substance that at a high dose causes cancer in laboratory animals), including:

— hydrazines (mushroom soup);

● aniline, caffeic acid, benzaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, quercetin glycosides, and psoralens (fresh vegetable salad);

● heterocyclic amines, acrylamide, benzo(a)pyrene, ethyl carbamate, dihydrazines, d-limonene, safrole, and quercetin glycosides (roast turkey with stuffing);

● benzene and heterocyclic amines (prime rib of beef with parsley sauce);

● furfural, ethyl alcohol, and allyl isothiocyanate (broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes);

● coumarin, methyl eugenol, acetaldehyde, estragole, and safrole (apple and pumpkin pie);

● ethyl alcohol with ethyl carbamate (red or white wine).

Then sit back and relax with some benzofuran, caffeic acid, catechol, and l,2,5,6-dibenz(a)anthracene with 4-methylcatechol (coffee).

And those are only the carcinogens you just scarfed down. Your 100 percent natural holiday meal is also replete with toxins — popularly known as “poisons.” These include the solanine, arsenic, and chaconine in potatoes; the hydrogen cyanide in lima beans; and the hallucinogenic compound myristicin, which is found in nutmeg, black pepper, and carrots.

Now, here’s the good news: These foods are safe. In fact, all of the above-named chemicals are in these foods courtesy of Mother Nature.

Four observations are relevant:

● When it comes to toxins, the dose makes the poison. Some chemicals, regardless of whether they are natural or synthetic, are potentially hazardous at high doses but are perfectly safe when consumed at low doses such as those found in our foods.

● While you probably associate the word “carcinogen” with nasty-sounding synthetic chemicals like PCBs and dioxin, the more we test naturally occurring chemicals, the more we find that they, too, cause cancer in lab animals.