Chlorotyrosines versus Volatile Byproducts from Chlorine Disinfection during Washing of Spinach and Lettuce

Yukako Komaki, Adam M.A. Simpson, Jong Kwon Choe, Michael J. Plewa, William A. Mitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 in the U.S., guidelines for disinfection washes in food packaging facilities are under consideration to control pathogen risks. However, disinfectant exposures may need optimization because the high concentrations of chlorine disinfectant promote the formation of high levels of disinfection byproducts (DBPs). When chlorine doses up through the 200 mg/L as Cl2 range relevant to the current practice were applied to spinach and lettuce, significant DBP formation was observed, even within 5 min at 7 °C. Concentrations of volatile chlorinated DBPs in washwater were far higher than typically observed in disinfected drinking water (e.g., 350 μg/L 1,1-dichloropropanone). However, these DBPs partitioned to the aqueous phase and so represent a greater concern for the disposal or reuse of washwater than for consumer exposure via food. The volatile DBPs represent the low-yield, final products of chlorination reactions with multiple biomolecular precursors. The initial, high-yield transformation products of such reactions may represent a greater concern for consumer exposure because they remain bound within the biopolymers in food and would be liberated during digestion. Using protein-bound tyrosine as an example precursor, the concentrations of the initial 3-chlorotyrosine and 3,5-dichlorotyrosine transformation products from this one precursor in the leaf phase were comparable to, and, in the case of some lettuces, exceeded, the aggregate aqueous concentration of volatile DBPs formed from multiple precursors. Chlorotyrosine formation increased when spinach was shredded due to the greater accessibility of chlorine to proteins in the leaf interiors. The cytotoxicity of chlorotyrosines to Chinese hamster ovary cells was higher than any of the trihalomethanes regulated in drinking water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9361-9369
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 21 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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