FAO Nutrition Meetings
    Report Series No. 40A,B,C
    WHO/Food Add./67.29


    The content of this document is the result of the deliberations of the
    Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives which met at Rome,
    13-20 December, 19651 Geneva, 11-18 October, 19662


    1 Ninth Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food
    Additives, FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series, 1966 No. 40; 
    Wld Hlth Org. techn. Rep. Ser., 1966, 339

    2 Tenth Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food
    Additives, FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series, 1967, in press; 

    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    World Health Organization


    Chemical name           Hydrogen peroxide

    Empirical formula       H2O2

    Molecular weight        34.02

    Definition              Hydrogen peroxide suitable for food use
                            contains the amount of H2O2 as specified
                            by the vendor (usually between 30 and 50 per

    Description             Hydrogen peroxide is a colourless liquid,
                            containing stabilizer appearing in the
                            residue on evaporation

    Caution                 Powerful oxidizing agent. Avoid contact with
                            eyes and skin.

    Uses                    As an antimicrobial or bleaching agent.

    Biological Data

    Biochemical aspects

         When hydrogen peroxide is used as an agent to reduce the number
    of bacteria in dairy products or other foodstuffs, the excess is
    destroyed. Toxicological considerations, therefore, apply only to the
    possible interference with the nutritional value of treated foodstuffs
    or the formation of toxic substances, but not to residual hydrogen
    peroxide. It is well known that small amounts of hydrogen peroxide
    given orally produce no toxicological effects, because of the rapid
    decomposition by the catalase of the intestinal cells. However, a 0.45
    per cent. solution given to rats instead of drinking water depressed
    the fluid intake and food consumption and reduced the body-weight
    (Hankin, 1958). Some hydrogen peroxide was absorbed sublingually,
    causing visible gas bubbles in the veins (Ludewig, 1959).

         Dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide (0.25 per cent.) caused no
    changes in casein detectable by electron microscopy.The rennet
    coagulation time of milk or of a pure casein solution treated with
    hydrogen peroxide was prolonged. Crystallized serum albumin treated
    with hydrogen peroxide also showed no detectable changes. On the other
    hand, hydrogen peroxide caused a dissociation of the ß-lactoglobulin
    molecule and, therefore, some alterations in the electrophoretic
    patterns of whey. The addition of 0.25 per cent. of hydrogen peroxide
    for 2 days at 30° or 20 minutes at 55° did not noticeably reduce the
    sulfhydryl groups of milk proteins (Lück & Joubert, 1955a; 1955b;
    1955c). No effect on the electrophoretic patterns of the milk proteins
    attributable to the treatment of milk with 0.1, 0.2 and 0.5 per cent.
    hydrogen peroxide at 120° F has been observed (Tepley et al., 1958).

         Treatment of milk with 0.3 per cent. hydrogen peroxide for 24
    hours at 30° or 30 minutes at 51° had no detectable influences on the
    milk fat or the fat soluble vitamins A and D3 and ß-carotene (Lück &
    Schillinger, 1958a); the water soluble vitamins thiamine, riboflavin
    and pyridoxine were also not affected, but ascorbic acid was nearly
    completely destroyed (Lück & Schillinger, 1958b). Treatment of milk
    with 0.1, 0.2 and 0.5 per cent. hydrogen peroxide had no influence on
    the content of the milk or wheys, on the vitamins thiamine,
    riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, folic acid, vitamin
    B12, vitamin A and ß-carotene. Treatment of milk with 0.5 per cent.
    hydrogen peroxide lowered the values for cystine and methionine in the
    cheese made from this milk by 10-25 per cent., but values for
    tryptophan and lysine were not affected (Tepley et al., 1958).

    Acute toxicity

         No data on the acute toxicity of foodstuffs or food components
    treated with hydrogen peroxide are available.

    Short-term studies

         Rat. Groups of 10 male weanling rats were fed for 6 weeks 9 per
    cent. milk protein or cheese protein of pasteurized milk treated with
    0, 0.1, 0.2 and 0.5 per cent. hydrogen peroxide. The biological value
    of the proteins was not altered, with the exception of a slightly
    depressed value for milk treated with 0.5 per cent. hydrogen peroxide
    at 160°F. All animals remained in good health and autopsy showed no
    abnormalities (Tepley et al., 1958).


         The destruction of ascorbic acid in milk is not considered
    nutritionally important as it is a minor source of this vitamin;
    pasteurization has an equally destructive effect. Biochemical studies
    and short-term animal studies with hydrogen peroxide treated milk and
    cheese support the view that milk treated with hydrogen peroxide may
    be safe. However, long-term studies are lacking.


         Because of the instability of the compound in contact with food,
    it is not possible to allocate to it a meaningful acceptable daily
    intake for man. However, in circumstances where more acceptable
    methods of milk preservation are not available, hydrogen peroxide may
    be used for this purpose.

    Further work required

    Long-term toxicity studies on milk treated with various levels of
    hydrogen peroxide.


    Hankin, L. (1958) Nature, 162, 1453

    Lück, H. & Joubert, F. J. (1955a) Milchwiss, 10, 160

    Lück, H. & Joubert, F. J. (1955b) Milchwiss., 10, 370

    Lück, H. & Joubert, F. J. (1955c) Biochem. Z., 327, 221

    Lück, H. & Schillinger, A. (1958a) Z. Lebensmittelunters, 108, 341

    Lück, H. & Schillinger, A. (1958b) Z. Lebensmittelunters., 107, 512

    Ludewig, R. (1959) Z. ges. exp. Med., 131, 452

    Tepley, L. J., Derse, P. H. & Price, W. V. (1958) J. Dairy
    Sci.,41, 593

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations
       Hydrogen peroxide (WHO Food Additives Series 5)
       Hydrogen peroxide (PIM 946)
       Hydrogen Peroxide (IARC Summary & Evaluation, Volume 71, 1999)