2017 saw European retailers and potato growers scramble to comply with rules requiring lower rates of the commonly used sprout inhibitor chlorpropham (CIPC). Since 2012, Europe has been drawing down its allowances for the chemical and has moved to require other measures, such as active recirculation in storages.
One reason for increased regulation of CIPC has been health concerns associated with a chemical byproduct, 3-chloroaniline, that has been tied to significant negative health effects at high enough levels, including possibly causing cancer.
Given increased global regulation, there has been a search for alternatives to CIPC. One such alternative sprout inhibitor is the biologically derived molecule 1,4-Dimethylnaphthalene (DMN), which is naturally found within potatoes.
The chemical has been used for several years and is the active ingredient of commercially available sprout inhibitors including those from Meridian, Idaho-based 1,4 Group.
Research on DMN is ongoing and its exact mode of action is still unknown. However, it is clear that what it does is distinct from how CIPC inhibits growth in tubers.
“We should always know what we’re putting in our food. We should have an idea of how it functions and what it does,” said Michael Campbell, biology professor at Penn State Behrend. “That is one reason why we’re very cautious about CIPC. We know how it functions and that has a lot of people nervous about how it functions.”