Toxicological evaluation of some food
    additives including anticaking agents,
    antimicrobials, antioxidants, emulsifiers
    and thickening agents


    The evaluations contained in this publication
    were prepared by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert
    Committee on Food Additives which met in Geneva,
    25 June - 4 July 19731

    World Health Organization


    1    Seventeenth Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on
    Food Additives, Wld Hlth Org. techn. Rep. Ser., 1974, No. 539;
    FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series, 1974, No. 53.



         Hydrogen peroxide has been evaluated for acceptable daily intake
    by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (see Annex 1,
    Ref. No. 13 in 1965).

         Since the previous evaluation, no additional data have become
    available. The previously published monograph is reproduced in its
    entirety below.



         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% 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%) caused no changes
    in casein detectable by electrophoresis and also no change in the
    particle size observable 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-lacto-globulin
    molecule and, therefore, some alterations in the electrophoretic
    patterns of whey. The addition of 0.25% of hydrogen peroxide for two
    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% hydrogen
    peroxide at 120°F has been observed (Tepley et al., 1958).

         Treatment of milk with 0.3% 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% 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% hydrogen peroxide lowered the values for
    cystine and methionine in the cheese made from this milk by 10-25%,
    but values for tryptophan and lysine were not affected (Tepley et al.,


    Special studies

         No data are available.

    Acute toxicity

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

    Short-term studies


         Groups of 10 male weanling rats were fed for six weeks 9% milk
    protein or cheese protein of pasteurized milk treated with 0, 0.1, 0.2
    and 0.5% 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% hydrogen peroxide at 160°F. All animals remained in
    good health and autopsy showed no abnormalities (Tepley et al., 1958).

    Long-term studies

         No data are available.


         The destruction of ascorbic acid in milk is not considered
    nutritionally significant as milk is a minor source of this vitamin
    and pasteurization has an equally destructive effect. There are only
    limited biochemical studies and short-term animal studies with
    hydrogen peroxide-treated milk and cheese.


         No ADI allocated.*


    *    In view of the limited data available hydrogen peroxide is to be
    used only where better methods of milk preservation are not available.


    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,

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations
       Hydrogen peroxide (FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series 40abc)
       Hydrogen peroxide (PIM 946)
       Hydrogen Peroxide (IARC Summary & Evaluation, Volume 71, 1999)