Toxicological evaluation of some food
additives including anticaking agents,
antimicrobials, antioxidants, emulsifiers
and thickening agents
WHO FOOD ADDITIVES SERIES NO. 5
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
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.,
No data are available.
No data on the acute toxicity of foodstuffs or food components
treated with hydrogen peroxide are available.
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).
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,