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Why Sulfites are Added to Foods

This is a repost from About.com, because we think our readers need to see it. As someone that for years thought I had a sulfite allergy-I may have been wrong.

So, why ARE sulfites added to foods?

Sulfites are added to foods for various reasons. These include:

  • Reduction of spoilage by bacteria
  • Slows the browning of fruit, vegetables and seafood
  • Inhibits of growth of bacteria during fermentation of wines
  • Conditioning of dough in frozen pie and pizza crust
  • Bleaching effect for maraschino cherries and hominy

In the past, sulfites were added to fresh foods in restaurants and grocery stores to prevent browning. An increase in reactions led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of sulfites in fresh foods in 1986, particularly on fresh lettuce in salad bars. The FDA now requires that any food containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) concentration of sulfites to be declared on the label. Foods that contain less than 10 ppm of sulfites have not been shown to cause symptoms, even in people allergic to sulfites.

Which Foods Contain Sulfites?

Greater than 100 ppm of sulfites

  • dried fruits (excluding dark raisins and prunes)
  • bottled lemon juice (non-frozen)
  • bottled lime juice (non-frozen)
  • wine
  • molasses
  • sauerkraut (and its juice)
  • grape juices (white, white sparkling, pink sparkling, red sparkling)
  • pickled cocktail onions

Between 50 and 99.9 ppm of sulfites

  • dried potatoes
  • wine vinegar
  • gravies/sauces
  • fruit toppings
  • Maraschino cherries

Between 10 and 49.9 ppm of sulfites

  • pectin
  • fresh shrimp
  • corn syrup
  • pickled peppers
  • pickles/relish
  • corn starch
  • hominy
  • frozen potatoes
  • maple syrup
  • imported jams and jellies
  • fresh mushrooms
  • imported sausages and meats
  • cordials (alcoholic)
  • dehydrated vegetables
  • various cheeses
  • corn bread/muffin mix
  • canned/jarred clams
  • clam chowder
  • avocado dip/guacamole
  • imported fruit juices and soft drinks
  • ciders and cider vinegars

Less than 10 ppm of sulfites (very low sulfite levels, generally do not pose a risk, even for people with sulfite allergy)

  • malt vinegar
  • canned potatoes
  • beer
  • dry soup mix
  • soft drinks
  • frozen pizza and pie dough
  • beet sugar
  • gelatin
  • coconut
  • fresh fruit salad
  • domestic jams and jellies
  • crackers
  • cookies
  • grapes
  • high fructose corn syrup

If you aren’t having reactions to these higher level foods, and like me, some wines bother you, remember: wineries aren’t required to disclose every ingredient in their bottles.

That flushed feeling or headache may be coming from something else that’s not on the label.  By the way, news to me:  there are normally more sulfites in white wine than in red.


Cassandra Branson

Cassandra is co-founder and Editor for Crave Local Media Network. When not managing writers, pitches, or story lines, she can be found mixing up food and cocktail recipes for fortunate staff in their corporate office. Email at editor (at) cravelocal dot com.

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Comments

  1. [...] Organic Matters About 100 producers of Alsace, are devoted to either organic or biodynamic farming, with numbers growing on an annual basis. Organic farming has been practiced in the Alsace region since the early 1970’s. Synthetic chemical pesticides are prohibited, and the winemaker must reduce necessary additions or interventions to the wine making process  in order to preserve the natural, organic state of the wine. Minimal sulfur is used, making many Alsatian wines a good choice for those looking for low sulfite wines. [...]

  2. [...] many people inaccurately mistake as an allergy to sulfites is, more often than not, a reaction to ‘something else’ that’s in that wine. [...]

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