Chlorinous flavors are a leading cause of customers' dissatisfaction with drinking water. Potential differences in chlorine perception were investigated by conducting sensory testing experiments in France and Spain to assess consumers' sensory sensitivity (chlorine flavor detection threshold and supra-threshold intensity) as well as their liking of and acceptability for chlorinated solutions. In both countries, two groups of panelists were constituted based on their water drinking habits (tap vs. bottled water). Chlorine flavor detection threshold was found to vary depending on countries (0.17 mg/L Cl2 in France and 0.56 mg/L Cl2 in Spain). Taking into account that mean flavor detection thresholds were found in agreement with chlorine residuals delivered at tap, it is likely that habituation may explain sensitivity differences between countries. This hypothesis is supported by results showing no significant sensitivity difference at detection threshold levels, but significant differences between tap water and bottled water consumers at supra-threshold levels (flavor intensity). In addition, consumers' liking and acceptability for chlorinated water was found to be in agreement with sensitivity: the higher the sensitivity the lower the acceptability for chlorinated waters. Thus, French consumers or bottled water drinkers showed a lower appreciation of chlorinated water solutions and were especially less inclined to accept chlorinated water as drinking water delivered at tap.

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