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Food Addit Contam Part B Surveill. 2009;2(1):44-51. doi: 10.1080/02652030902858921.

Trimethylamine oxide, dimethylamine, trimethylamine and formaldehyde levels in main traded fish species in Hong Kong.

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a Food Research Laboratory , Food and Environmental Hygiene Department , 4/F Public Health Laboratory Centre, 382 Nam Cheong Street , Hong Kong , SAR , China.


Levels of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), dimethylamine (DMA), trimethylamine (TMA) and formaldehyde (FA) were studied in 266 different fishes, including fresh/frozen raw whole fishes of 89 different species that traded in Hong Kong, China. Determination of TMAO can confirm the source of DMA and FA if present in the sample. These samples were purchased from different commercial outlets between April and August 2007. All samples of raw whole fish were identified for their species by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The content of TMAO was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with a chemiluminescent nitrogen detector. The possible decomposition products of TMAO, DMA and TMA were analysed by headspace solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (HS-SPME-GC-MS), while FA was conducted by steam distillation then quantified by a HPLC. The range for TMAO of all samples was <5-3800 mg kg(-1) with median of 970 mg kg(-1), while the endogenous enzymatic cleavage products DMA, TMA and FA were in the range of <2-320, <1-190 and <1-160 mg kg(-1), respectively. These cleavage products were mainly found in three fish species, Harpadon nehereus, Saurida elongata and Saurida tumbil, that belong to the family Synodontidae (Lizardfishes) and subfamily Harpadontinae. Besides, freshwater fish species, namely, Micropterus salmoides, Oreochromis niloticus niloticus and Siniperca chuatsi, were found to contain TMAO in the range of 510-760, 85-720 and 400-640 mg kg(-1), respectively.


chromatography – headspace; chromatography – high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); fish; market basket survey; natural toxicants

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