How Is Hydrogen Peroxide Used in the Food Industry?

How Is Hydrogen Peroxide Used in the Food Industry?

Table of Contents

A few years ago, nobody could have claimed that hydrogen peroxide is fit for use as a food processing aid or can help in the whitening of sugar. 

But times have changed, technology has advanced, and research supports the widespread use of hydrogen peroxide within the food industry. 

Food-grade hydrogen peroxide is free from chemical substances and toxic materials, deeming itself for consumption in the final product. The food-grade hydrogen peroxide concentration is 35%, which is the ratio widely used and promoted in the edibles industry.

So, let’s dive right in and see how the chemical is used in the food industry.

Properties of Hydrogen Peroxide that Make It Relevant to Food

Taking a look at the physical properties of hydrogen peroxide, we have a colorless liquid and a non-planar structure. 

Hydrogen peroxide comes into being after barium peroxide is acidified, and the excess water is eradicated with the help of evaporation that takes place under extremely reduced pressure. 

To be deemed fit for use by the food industry, hydrogen peroxide further goes through an electrolysis process of 30%. When the acidic sulfate is electrolyzed at a high density, peroxodisulphate is obtained that’s hydrolyzed to get hydrogen peroxide. 

Hydrogen peroxide is miscible in water. Therefore, it’s used in many countries as a preservative for packaged water. Moreover, whether it’s a basic or acidic medium, hydrogen peroxide will act as a reducing agent. 

Within the food industry, hydrogen peroxide is extensively used to bleach sugar, flour, and the list goes on, as it’s able to transform from H2O2 into nascent oxygen. 

How Is Hydrogen Peroxide Used in the Food Industry?

The implementation of hydrogen peroxide as an additive within the food industry is not a new concept, and its usage has now been adopted by a long list of food producers. 

Take a look at how hydrogen peroxide is used for optimum and maximum benefits. 

#1 Used as a Bleaching Agent

The composition of hydrogen peroxide allows it to be used as a bleaching agent not only in the textile industry but also in the food industry.

According to the Center For Food Safety, the strongly oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide allow it to be used as a bleaching agent in foods like wheat flour, egg white, edible oil, etc. 

Hydrogen peroxide comes in a liquid form and is colorless and bitter tasting with an ozone-like odor. This is the form that is being vastly used in the edibles industry. 

The recent research done by EVONIK established that hydrogen peroxide is the most widely used peroxide for bleaching purposes in the food industry. 

Application — Where Is It Used

As mentioned above, hydrogen peroxide is used for bleaching a long list of foods. Let’s take a look at what these foods are: 

Natural Oils

With the help of hydrogen peroxide, pigments available within the natural oil are removed via a whole heating process. 


Beeswax is thoroughly beached in the food industry with the help of hydrogen peroxide to lighten the color of the wax. The final product tends to be more brittle and dense. 

Natural Sugars

White solids like sugar are purified from various impurities via hydrogen peroxide. This oxidizer will decolorize impurities and present sugar in a desirable state. 

What Makes It Useful?

The reason behind the never-ending popularity of hydrogen peroxide in the food industry can be linked back to its composition. 

The mixture of water and oxygen results in a powerful agent (H2O 2)  that does its job perfectly and effectively as an oxidizing agent. Hydrogen peroxides’ properties allow them to break the chemical bonds of chromophores present in food. 

The nascent oxygen forms a mixture with the coloring matter of the food, which ultimately gets oxidized. Eventually, the food in question will be whitened as a result of the oxidation process. 

Moreover, during the process, hydrogen peroxide also tends to oxidize into Oxygen. Therefore, it will act as a reducing agent besides adapting to the rule of an oxidizing agent. 

#2 Used as an Antimicrobial Agent

The antibacterial effects of hydrogen peroxide are known to everyone. In line with the study done by Benjamin J Juven at the institute of the National Library of Medicine, hydrogen peroxide tends to be responsible for various bactericidal effects. 

The microbial activity of hydrogen peroxide is used to preserve solutions of natural proteins or carbohydrates. 

The MDPI states that the application of hydrogen peroxide also improves the microbiological stability of food ice manufactured in the industry. The mixture of hydrogen peroxide within water improves the quality of water.  This quality is improved by freezing the food ice and then selling it in the markets. 

Application — Where Is It Used

Hydrogen peroxide is used for the following purposes: 

Microbial Agent For Milk

Even though milk naturally has several microbial agents present in it, over time the whole system of processing and packaging the milk leads to it losing some of these.

Milk needs to have sufficient microbial agents to deem it safe for consumption. Hence, the impregnation of hydrogen peroxide within the milk. 

Food Packaging

Hydrogen peroxide is also famously used within the food industry for packaging purposes. Disinfectant wipes with hydrogen peroxide are widely used to clean off the packaging of food as a means of disinfection.

These disinfecting wipes with hydrogen peroxide are claimed to work rigorously and effectively against coronavirus too.

What Makes It Useful?

The 70% water and 30% oxygen combination of hydrogen peroxide support the penetration of alcohol on surfaces like food packages causing a more effective disinfectant. The application of hydrogen peroxide destroys any virus that’s present on the packaging.

Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide is used as a microbial agent within the food as it comes with properties that kill bacteria within the food.

This bacteria might be instilled within the food as it’s processed within the factory. Hydrogen peroxide comes with a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity and is safe in comparison to other microbial agents.

Not only does it eradicate any present bacteria within the food, but it also prevents microbial growth within the edible. 

#3 Used as a Food Processing Aid

Food processing aid refers to any substance that provides ‘aid’ in specific production aspects of food.

The best example of such an aid is hydrogen peroxide which is used to enhance the taste, texture, and functionality of many foods. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, hydrogen peroxide is found in vegetables like broccoli, broad bean, onions, and leek. 

The recent development within Australia has stated that hydrogen peroxide can be used as an additive in various foods but within limited quantities.

The FANZ, short for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has set a 5 mg/kg limit of hydrogen peroxide in the final product. 

Application — Where Is It Used

Hydrogen peroxide is useful for food processing in the following ways: 

Removal of Glucose

Hydrogen peroxide is being widely used by food industries to remove glucose from certain dairy products, mainly eggs.

The glucose is removed by oxidation to the gluconic acid present. Once the glucose is removed, the egg whites are stable to use and consume. 

Packaged Water

Hydrogen peroxide is used in the manufacturing of packaged water to disinfect it. As hydrogen peroxide can decompose completely and leave no residue, it fits the purpose. 

Control Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is an organic acid found in fermented foods and added artificially into a bunch of processed foods to avoid spoilage etc.

Furthermore, it works actively against bacteria growth and protects consumers from falling into the hands of chronic diseases. 

However, sometimes, lactic acid is highly increased in quantity during the processing, which is something the health department frowned upon.

Therefore, hydrogen peroxide is used as an additive to control the population of lactic acid-producing microorganisms within the food. 

What Makes It Useful?

Hydrogen peroxide is the lightest oxidant out there. It’s a gas made out of diatomic molecules and has no odor or element of toxicity within it. 

This food processing aid is extremely popular in the food industry due to its full quick reactivity and adaptability with its subordinate constituents.

It’s formed when two hydrogen molecules mix and work well together with two oxygen molecules. 

Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide is deemed to be safe when used as a processing aid by the Food Technology Assessment. When compared to other aids, hydrogen peroxide comes at the top and is stated to be a better oxidant than water. 

#4 Used as an Equipment Sterilizer

Devices and equipment that are unable to stand extensively high temperatures and humidity tend to be treated with hydrogen peroxide.

This method has been seen to be compatible with the devices via thorough and legitimate research work done by the CDC government

According to the well-known knowledge center, hydrogen peroxide sterilization is a safe and effective method of sterilizing heat-sensitive devices, backing up the research results of CDC as mentioned above. 

The low sterilization process is a type of sterilization process that is specifically used on devices that have been damaged by the steam sterilization cycle. 

Another example of sterilization via hydrogen peroxide is vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization.

Overall, the use of hydrogen peroxide in sterilization has been determined as a non-toxic and environmentally friendly one. 

Application — Where Is It Used

The use of hydrogen peroxide as sterilization is used in various areas of the food industry that, include: 

Heat Sensitive Devices

Devices that are unable to stand heat within the food manufacturing industry need to be sterilized via low-temperature sterilization.

Hydrogen peroxide is added within the sterilization chamber which in turn sterilizes the exposed devices. 

Fights Molds

Much electronic equipment tends to accumulate mold on them, especially the ones that are located within the food industry.

The nature of the industry means that a lot of steam is going to be accumulated within the building area. Steam leads to moisture which eventually causes mold to take over the equipment.

In such cases, the spraying of hydrogen peroxide over these machines allows them to fight off any mold development and stay operable for a long period. 

What Makes It Useful?

The use of hydrogen peroxide vapors is becoming extensive within the food industry.

The reason behind this popularity is the ability of hydrogen peroxide to show great resistance against bacterial spores and infectious proteins that can take over equipment at a rapid pace. 

The toxicity of hydrogen peroxide towards molds and germ-filled moisture has made it a must-have within the food industry.

With the help of recent technological advancements, high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, along with other chemicals, have proven to be depicting an effective performance of its antimicrobial activity. 

The many benefits of hydrogen peroxide as a sterilizer make it an attractive component for not only the food industry but also the medical industry. 

#5 Used as a Preservative

Hydrogen peroxide has been used as a preservative in the food industry for quite some time now. Researchers have gone as far as saying that hydrogen peroxide has the potential to stop global starvation. The reason behind this belief? 

Distributors within the food industry have been using hydrogen peroxide to preserve fruits and vegetables.

And if everyone around the world uses hydrogen peroxide as a natural preservative, tables can be turned around and the supply of food can be enhanced according to Jan Lee. 

Moreover, any sort of bacteria that tries to intrude on a package of food can be killed and eradicated with the help of hydrogen peroxide. Live Science states that hydrogen peroxide comes with the ability to destroy bacterial cell walls. 

Application — Where Is It Used

Within the food industry, the application of hydrogen peroxide as a food processing aid is distributed among various areas and foods that include: 

Preserving Syrups

High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are used to preserve syrups by eradicating the enzyme lactoperoxidase and preventing the oxidation of thiocyanate present in the syrups. 

Preserving Milk

Hydrogen peroxide is added to dairy products like milk to limit the growth of microorganisms. 

Preserving Vegetables

Hydrogen peroxide tends to be sprayed over growing vegetables for about 30 minutes within the food industry. This is to ensure that the leafy vegetables are not attacked by any insecticides lurking around in the field. 

What Makes It Useful?

The ability of hydrogen peroxide to fight off germs and other destructive elements without leaving behind any residues is what makes it a popular component within the food industry. 

Concentrations of even as little as 0.02% hydrogen peroxide exert a preservative effect for more than 10 days. 

When the individual elements of oxygen and hydrogen peroxide break down, it creates a wall against bacterial attacks acting as a preservative for vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and the list goes on. 

Safety Regulations Enforced for Hydrogen Peroxide in the Food Industry

Hydrogen peroxide is used as an additive, oxidant, bleaching agent, and the list goes on. Everywhere around the world, food commissioners use somewhat the same rules and regulations when it comes to the usage of hydrogen peroxide. 

First and foremost, the quantity of hydrogen peroxide that’s to be used is strictly restricted. A small amount of hydrogen peroxide can quickly decompose into the water, in a matter of seconds even.

Therefore, only 5 mg/kg of this oxidant is to be used as a food processing aid while dealing with dairy and fermented products. 

Furthermore, when it comes to food-grade hydrogen peroxide, a concentration of 35% dilution is allowed within the food industry as compared to drug store restrictions of 3-5%. 

Moreover, when talking about farm areas within the food industry, it’s strictly stated that a set starting and ending time for application should be observed. 

The EDI, short for estimated daily intake of hydrogen peroxide as an additive within the food industry, is limited up to 0.015 mg/person per product. 

Regarding worldwide approval, hydrogen peroxide is approved to be used for the preservation of milk set aside for cheese production, in whey, dried egg products, starch, and corn syrup, within the USA. 

In Canada, hydrogen peroxide can be used in the production of beer, for decolorizing and maintaining PH within food products, and for egg whites that need to be dried. 

In Japan, the Food Sanitation Act states that hydrogen peroxide is only to be used as a sterilizing agent. It should be noted that the sterilizing agent can only be used when it has been thoroughly decomposed or removed before food production takes place. 

It can be said that the use of hydrogen peroxide within the food industry is justified from a technological point of view and raises no public health and safety issues for the general consumers out there. 

Safety Precautions to Observe While Operating With Hydrogen Peroxide

When it comes to the measure to be followed while interacting with the oxidizing agent, areas in which precaution needs to be observed can be divided into three parts, which are the following: 

Safety Attire

Workers should be given detailed training on the expected attire they need to wear for maximum safety. This attire will usually include the following elements: 

  • A protective suit made out of vinyl, neoprene, PVC, or even polythene. 
  • Protective eyewear that fits perfectly.
  • Rubber gloves are made out of vinyl or neoprene. 
  • The hat comes with a hard build and a full-face shield. 

General Precautionary Measures

These could include: 

  • The use of food-grade hydrogen peroxide should be done in an area that has eye wash stations, showers, and several jump tanks in case of an emergency. 
  • In case of spillage, it’s recommended to not employ the use of mops, rags, or any other materials that can lead to possible combustion. 
  • During the unloading process, workers should be strictly instructed to put away any metal objects, including keys and tools. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide and leather don’t go hand in hand. Therefore, workers should know that they’re not allowed to wear leather shoes. If their shoes and hydrogen peroxide come into contact by accident, possible combustion can occur. 
  • The transportation tanks should be accurately labeled, stating the amount of hydrogen peroxide they’re carrying and any corrosive chemical warning. 

The Bottom Line

The abundant advantages of hydrogen peroxide make it a must-have within areas that concern the food industry. We saw how chemical has become essential for the food industry, be it for disinfecting food produce or cleaning heavy machinery.

The multipurpose hydrogen peroxide is the perfect chemical as it is the safest yet among the most powerful disinfectants known to man.

Food-grade hydrogen peroxide is always recommended to be purchased in bulk as one gets a good discount, and overall it’s a more sensible approach. 

Therefore, if you’re thinking of introducing hydrogen peroxide in the production process of one of your industries, don’t waste any more time and order your set today!

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Faizan Khan
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