First draft prepared by
    Dr D.L Grant
    Bureau of Chemical Safety
    Health and Welfare
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


         This substance has not been previously evaluated by the Joint
    FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.

         Beeswax (white and yellow) is the refined wax from honeycombs.
    The wax is a secretion from bees of the genus  Apis e.g.,  Apis
     dorsata, A. indica, A. florea and the domesticated  A. mellifera.

         Beeswax is a complex mixture of several chemical compounds,
    predominantly compounds based on straight-chain monohydric alcohols
    with even-numbered carbon chains from C24 to C36 and
    straight-chain acids also having even numbers of carbon atoms up to
    C36 (including some C18 hydroxy acids) e.g., esters, diesters
    and triesters. The free acids and alcohols occur in minor amounts.
    It contains also hydrocarbons having odd-numbered carbon chains from
    C21 to C33 and a minor amount of a colouring matter

         The composition of beeswax varies depending on its geographical
    origin, however a typical composition of one product of yellow
    beeswax is (NRC, 1981):

              Total esters                     70-71% (w/w)
              Free alcohols                    1-1.5% (w/w)
              Free acids                    9.6-10.9% (w/w)
              Hydrocarbons                  12.1-15.1 (w/w)
              3-Hydroxyflavone                    0.3 (w/w)

         White beeswax is bleached yellow beeswax (ACT,1984; Blum
     et al., 1988)


    2.1  Biochemical aspects

    2.1.1  Absorption, distribution and excretion

         It is generally believed that waxes are not digested or
    absorbed from the alimentary tract in most mammals, including man.
    Beeswax may be indigestible in mammals due to the structure of its
    component compounds, which are not susceptible to hydrolysis by
    enzymes of the alimentary tract, and due to its insolubility in
    water and high melting point (62 C - 65 C) which prevent
    dissolution at body temperature (FASEB, 1975). There are no original
    research data available to support this claim.

         There are reports in the literature that beeswax can be used as
    the sole source of carbon by insects and microorganisms (Opdyke,
    1976). This would suggest that certain amounts of ingested beeswax
    could be broken down by gut microflora and then possibly absorbed.

    2.1.2  Biotransformation

         No information available.

    2.2  Toxicological studies

    2.2.1  Acute toxicity study


    Species     Sex         Route       LD50               Reference
                                        (mg/kg b.w.)

    Rat         Not         oral        >5000              ACT, 1984

    2.2.2  Short-term studies

         No information available.

    2.2.3  Long-term/carcinogenicity studies

         No information available.

    2.2.4  Reproduction studies

         No information available.

    2.2.5  Special studies on mutagenicity

         White beeswax, at concentrations of 5000 ppm and 10 000 ppm,
    was not mutagenic to  Salmonella typhimurium strains TA1535,
    TA1537, TA1538 or to  Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain D4, in plate
    and suspension tests, with or without the addition of mouse, rat or
    monkey metabolic activation system (FASEB, 1975).

    2.3  Observation in humans

         No information available


         The only data available to the Committee indicated that the
    LD50 (median lethal dose) in the rat was greater than 5 g per kg
    of body weight per day and that beeswax was not mutagenic when
    tested in  in vitro microbial assays.

         The Committee concluded that beeswax could be regarded as a
    good constituent and that, although an evaluation in the traditional
    manner could not be carried out, the long histry of use of natural
    yellow beeswax without apparent adverse effects provided a degree of
    assurance that its present functional uses (release and glazing
    agent in bakery products, glazing agent on fresh and frozen fruit,
    glazing agent on candy, carrier for flavours, and component of
    chewing-gum bases) did not raise any toxicological concerns.

         The processing necessary to obtain bleached white beeswax did
    not appear to alter this conclusion, as the specifications limit the
    levels of peroxides present.

         The Committee noted that beeswax might have allergenic
    potential and that the consumer should be made aware of its presence
    in foods.

         The Committee also noted that attention should be paid to the
    possibility that toxic substances present in honey in some parts of
    the world might also occur in beeswax.


    ACT (1984). Final report on the safety assessment of candelilla wax,
    carnauba wax, Japan wax and beeswax.  J. Amer. Coll. Toxicol., 3:

    Oxygenated compounds in beeswax: identification and possible
    significance.  Comp. Biochem. Physiol., 91B: 581-583.

    FASEB (1975). Evaluation of the health aspects of beeswax (yellow or
    white) as a food ingredient. Prepared for FDA. Contract No. FDA
    223-75-2004. Unpublished report.

    NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (1981). Food Chemicals Codex. Third
    Edition. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 34-35.

    OPDYKE, D.L.J. (1976). Beeswax absolute. Monographs on fragrance raw
    materials.  Food Cosmet. Toxicol., 14 (suppl.): 691-692.

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations
       Beeswax (WHO Food Additives Series 56)
       BEESWAX (JECFA Evaluation)