Critical review of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in fresh produce and process water
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Disinfection is one of the most significant steps to guarantee the quality, safety, and shelf-life of fresh and fresh-cut produce in food processing industry. However, the disinfectant can react with the organic matter in produce and water, leading to the formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), which pose potential carcinogenic risks to human health. Despite the common use of disinfectants in produce processing and extensive research of DBPs in the drinking water field, studies investigating the DBP levels in fresh produce are quite limited. The research objectives of this thesis are to conduct a critical literature review regarding DBP occurrence and formation potential in fresh produce and produce process water, summarize the analytical methods, assess DBP exposure and risks, explore the current knowledge status, identify major information gaps, and provide recommendations for future research. It has been found that the majority of the existing studies focused on investigation of THM residues in fresh produce and associated process water. Process water contains significant levels of DBPs due to high organic load, indicating that more challenges can arise in treating and recycling process water. Future research should look into gathering more comprehensive data on DBPs in food, particularly for emerging nitrogenous DBPs, developing disinfection strategies alternative to chlorine with both disinfection efficacy and DBP minimization in consideration, and improving the risk assessment methods for DBPs in food.