Revisited: cooking on aromatic cedar

I had started a thread earlier about cooking fish on cedar planks. I was interested mostly in ideas for joining narrow boards to be used in cooking and got some good ideas, along with some good humor, as well as the usual slew of irrational responses.
A few sub-threads were interested in questioning my use of aromatic cedar rather than the more common Western (non-aromatic) cedar. Some posters thought it might be toxic, a perfectly valid concern. Everything I'd ever read pointed to the Western as more toxic than the Eastern (but those studies were all about inhalation and allergies), yet the Western has become rather popular as planking material, so it probably isn't that bad except for those with unusual allergies.
Regardless, I sent a query to various government agencies and recently got one response, so thought to share it with the Wreck. The upshot is that it *seems* safe although pregnant women might want to avoid it--*seems* because no specific testing has been done regarding its use in plank cooking.
Anyway, if you're interested, here's one response:
-----Original Message----- From: Hoskin, George P Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 9:39 AM Subject: FW: Cedar-planked salmon
Mr.. Seavey, Also a recent article in the food section of the Washington Post was critical of the idea as being of little use in flavoring- although your experience suggests otherwise. See below for some additional information. George Hoskin
-----Original Message----- From: Buchanan, Robert L Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 4:43 PM To: Hoskin, George P Subject: FW: Cedar-planked salmon
I would just send this back as a response to the original inquiry.
Robert (Bob) Buchanan CFSAN Senior Science Advisor & Director of the CFSAN Office of Science DHHS, FDA, CFSAN 5100 Paint Branch Parkway College Park, MD, USA 20740
Telephone: 1-301-436-2369 Fax: 1-301-436-2642
-----Original Message----- From: Pauli, George H Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 3:04 PM To: Hoskin, George P; Buchanan, Robert L; Kraemer, Donald W Cc: Valerio, Luis Jr. Subject: RE: Cedar-planked salmon
Not surprisingly, most information will be on the berry, not the wood. Our toxicologist found the following:
In doing some quick searches, I found few studies directly related to J. virginiana (Eastern red cedar). One interesting study (Toxicol 1975:221-35) although dated reported that the use of J. virginiana cedar shavings as bedding for mice significantly increased the incidence of spontaneous liver and mammary gland tumors. Since that time period, however, I could not find further reports about the carcinogenicity of J. virginiana. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert panel concluded insufficient data to support safety for use in cosmetics (Int J Toxicol, 2001, 20:41-56), but indicated J. virginiana was not a skin irritant or contact sensitizer. However, no gentox, dermal repro tox, or photosensitization data were available and CIR commented J. communis extract did affect fertility and was abortifacient in studies using albino rats, hence the insufficient data conclusion by the panel. Below are other recommendations from authorities in the field of botanicals which support an avoidance of its use during pregnancy which I find to be the common denominator here.
European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy ESCOP 1997. Juniperus virginiana Not recommended during pregnancy and lactation.
American Herbal Products Assoc Botanical Safety Handbook Juniperus virginiana listed Class 2b Not to be used during pregnancy Juniperus virginiana listed Class 3 Herbs for which significant data exist to recommend the following labeling: "To be used only under the supervision of an expert qualified in the appropriate use of this substance"
German Commission E Approves the use of juniper(Juniperus communis) dried fruit preparations or oil to relieve dyspepsia. Oil of Juniperus communis has been found to stimulate uterine contractions, use is not advised during pregnancy (and Tyler, 1993).
More information is available on Juniperus communis. It could be a reasonable assumption that its chemical composition (terpenoids, aromatics, aliphatic alcohols and aldehydes) is similar to Juniperus virginiana and there are some studies reporting adverse renal effects in rabbits, however, the concentrations required to induce this toxicity is extraordinarily high (30 g) using the pure essential oil, whereas the recommended daily dose equates to 15 berries (2.5 g) and contains about 1% essential oil or 25 mg. So the issue here is the dose, and other studies in rodents found negative results for renal toxicity at doses of 1 g/kg bw.
Only the first is remotely related to wood and it is skin contact and inhalation, not extraction and ingestion. Moreover, aroma would be breathed 24 hours/day/life.
we generally have not tried to regulate the type of wood in contact with food and would not plan to do so unless we had a reason to expect hazard; i.e., wood, in general, is presumed GRAS for food contact with no approval or disapproval from FDA.
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