A Focus on Chlorine Dioxide: The Promising Food Preservative
Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA
- *Corresponding Author:
- Zhao Chen
Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University
Clemson, SC 29634, USA
E-mail: [email protected]
Received date: February 20, 2017; Accepted date: February 21, 2017; Published date: February 27, 2017
Citation: Chen Z (2017) A Focus on Chlorine Dioxide: The Promising Food Preservative. J Exp Food Chem 3:e107. doi: 10.4172/2472-0542.1000e107
Copyright: © 22017 Chen Z. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is an unstable green-yellowish gas with an
irritating odor . In water, ClO2 exists as free radicals and as a
powerful oxidizing agent, it reacts easily with reducing agents. The end
products of ClO2 reactions are chloride (Cl-), chlorite (ClO-), and
chlorate (ClO3-) . Chlorine dioxide is a promising food preservative as a substitute for chlorine (Cl2) because unlike Cl2, it does not react
with organic matters in foods to form harmful organohalogen
byproducts . Chlorine dioxide can be used in aqueous and gaseous
phases. Studies have demonstrated that both aqueous and gaseous
ClO2 are effective sanitizing agents which can inactivate a broad
spectrum of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa,
and algae .
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the
use of ClO2 as a disinfectant for potable water with a monitoring
requirement of 1 ppm ClO- in the treated water . The US Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) has also allowed the use of ClO2 as a
bactericidal agent in poultry processing water at a level of 3 ppm
residual ClO2 . Meanwhile, aqueous ClO2 has been approved by the
US FDA for sanitizing fruits and vegetables at concentrations not
exceeding 3 ppm residual ClO2 .
Studies have proved the effectiveness of ClO2 treatment on
prolonging the shelf-life and maintaining the storage quality of a wide
variety of foods. Chlorine dioxide has been reported to inhibit the
activities of some browning-related enzymes to retain the stability of
foods. It has been found to be able to inhibit polyphenol oxidase (PPO)
activity in Golden Delicious apple , lotus root , and asparagus
lettuce , and peroxidase (POD) activity in asparagus lettuce .
However, there are some conflicts among findings of different authors.
Browning caused by ClO2 treatment has also been observed in various
foods, including shredded lettuce, peach, and apple [11-14]. To inhibit
the browning of white cabbage, Gómez-López et al.  applied
cysteine solution prior to ClO2 treatment.
Chlorine dioxide can possibly react with carbohydrates, lipids, and
proteins in foods . It is also known that ClO2 can react with
phenols . As some phytochemicals in foods are categorized as
phenolic compounds, ClO2 is supposed to have an impact on these
compounds. Similarly, since ClO2 is a strong oxidant, some reducing
components as human nutrients (e.g. ascorbic acid) in foods could be
readily oxidized. However, published scientific literatures have shown
limited negative effect of ClO2 on these nutrients in various foods, such
as salmon, red grouper, green bell pepper, iceberg lettuce, white
cabbage, plum, and mulberry [18-23].
Several authors have reported the bleaching or white blushing in
lettuce, green bell pepper, tomato, strawberry, blueberry, and mulberry
as a consequence of ClO2 treatment [12,19,24-27]. Nonetheless, sufficient evidence has demonstrated that ClO2 generally has no
deleterious effect on the sensory quality of foods .
Studies have been carried out to investigate the levels of chemical
residues in foods after ClO2 treatment. The application of aqueous
ClO2 followed by a water rinse did not leave any residues of ClO2,
ClO-, or ClO3- in mulberry . For ClO2 in gaseous phase, Tsai et al.
 could not detect residues of ClO2, ClO-, or ClO3- in potatoes
stored with ClO2 gas. Trinetta et al.  also reported that after ClO2 gas treatment, there was minimal to no detectable chemical residues in
selected fruits and vegetables. In the study of Kim et al. , low levels
of ClO3- were detected in ClO2-treated sea scallop, mahimahi, and
shrimp, which is not expected to pose any health risks to consumers
after its conversion to Cl- during cooking. And ClO- residue was not
found in any of the ClO2-treated seafoods.
Regarding toxicity, ClO2 is not classified as a carcinogen to human
by the International Agency for Research on Cancer . No
formation of toxic chlorinated byproducts is one significant advantage
of ClO2 as food preservative over Cl2. It has been reported by López-
Gálvez et al.  that washing lettuce with 3.7 mg/L aqueous ClO2 for
30 min did not produce detectable levels (<5 mg/L) of trihalomethanes
(THMs), whereas the formation of THMs could be detected in process
water and lettuce in which sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) was applied
under some conditions.
In conclusion, as a strong oxidizing agent, ClO2 has the potential to
be an alternative to Cl2 to maintain the postharvest storage quality and
enhance the microbiological safety of foods, without posing any health risks to consumers.
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