FOOD INTOLERANCE NETWORK FACTSHEET

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Sulphites (220-228)

Introduction

How to avoid sulphites

Sulphites in Australian foods
Sulphites in US foods
Eating out
Children's sulphite intake
Sulphites in minced meat
Sulphites in potato products
Wine without wheeze
Exceeding the limit

Sulphite regulations

Who's watching?
The rise and fall of sulphites
What you can do

Scientific references

History of sulphites
Sulphites destroy thiamine
Sulphites associated with a full range of food intolerance symptoms especially asthma
Salad bar deaths
Number of sulphite sensitive children
How to avoid sulphites
Sulphites in minced meat and sausages
Children's sulphite intake
Sulphites in potatoe products
Sulphites in wine
Exceeding the limit
The rise and fall of sulphites

Keywords: sulphites, sulfites, asthma, wine, dried fruit, meat, thiamine 

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Introduction 

Sulphites are some of the oldest and most widespread preservatives in our food supply. They were used in Greek and Roman times in wine, but it was only in the 1880s that their use in as preservatives in meats was pioneered by Australian and South American beef producers wanting to ship their products to England. The use of sulphites in fruit and vegetables became common with the growth of the processed food industry in the twentieth century.

Sulphites destroy thiamine (Vitamin B1) so some experts recommend that foods which are a significant source of thiamine, such as meats, dairy foods and cereals should not be sulphited. In Australia, a number of pet cats and dogs have died from thiamine deficiency due to a steady diet of pet meat containing unlisted sulphites. Since sulphites cleave the thiamine molecule, thiamine in vitamin supplements can also be destroyed by sulphites. For this reason, in the USA there has been a total prohibition on the use of sulphites in meats since 1959, although sulphited meats such as sausages are still widely eaten in other English and Spanish speaking countries. Sulphites are also thought to destroy folic acid.

Sulphites have been associated with the full range of food intolerance symptoms including headaches, irritable bowel symptoms, behaviour disturbance and skin rashes but are best known for their effects on asthmatics since the well publicised 'salad bar' deaths of the 1970s and 80s when there were hundreds of reports of severe reactions and at least 12 asthmatics died from eating salads that had been sprayed with sulphites in restaurants. This use was banned in the USA in 1986, but a move by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1990 to prohibit the use of sulphites on frozen french fries was defeated on procedural grounds in a court battle with the potato industry.

At first sulphites were thought to affect only a small percentage of the population but in 1984, Australian researchers found that more than 65% of asthmatic children were sensitive to sulphites, and in 1999 the conservative World Health Organisation (WHO) revised upward their estimate of the number of sulphite-sensitive asthmatic children, from 4% to 20-30%.

On the recommendation of the WHO, food regulators have been working slowly to reduce the use of large amounts of sulphite preservatives in our foods. However, for children this reduction can be offset by increasing promotion of dried fruit as a healthy snack under new canteen guidelines prompted by the obesity epidemic. Since any dose of sulphites can be too much for asthmatics, individuals must learn how to avoid sulphites for themselves.

How to avoid sulphites

(adapted from Fed Up with Asthma by Sue Dengate, published by Random House Australia, 2003)

For starters, avoid everything containing listed ingredients in the range 220-228: 

  • 220 Sulphur dioxide
  • 221 Sodium sulphite
  • 222 Sodium bisulphite
  • 223 Sodium metabisulphite
  • 224 Potassium metabisulphite
  • 225 Potassium sulphite
  • 228 Potassium bisulphite
     

However, many of the sulphites you eat will be in unlabelled foods. When you look at the sulphite lists below, you can see why an additive-free low-salicylate diet works so well for sulphite-sensitive asthmatics. By avoiding processed foods and salicylates in fruit, fruit drinks, dried fruit, fruit flavoured breakfasts, cookies, snacks, muesli bars, yoghurt, icecream and confectionery, you are also getting rid of sulphites.

There is a big gap between reading sulphite lists and understanding whether the food you buy or a restaurant meal contains sulphites. The best way to find out which foods contain sulphites is to ask consumers who are particularly sulphite sensitive.

Liz, a sulphite-sensitive asthmatic from Australia, recommends avoiding sausages, all processed deli meats, cordials, jams, shop produced fruit salad, pickled anything with vinegar, shop bought hot chips, dried foods like apricots and 'anything that isn't natural'.

Rick Williams from the USA, who runs the Nosulfites website, suffers severe headaches from eating the smallest quantities of sulphites. The list of sulphites in US processed foods below gives an idea of the size of the problem. 'Current regulations discourage the use of large amounts of sulfites,' says Rick. 'Today, the problem is low levels of sulfur dioxide in practically everything you touch.' Sulphites under 10 ppm in the US do not have to be listed but they will all contribute to your sulphite intake. 

A 1994 survey by Australian food regulators found sulphites in more than half the foods tested including such staples as bread and margarine, with sulphites higher in white bread than wholemeal.

If you look at ingredient listings of fast food companies, you will see that few of the ingredients have sulphites listed. This does not mean that the foods are sulphite-free. Small amounts of sulphites all add up, in processed food ingredients like corn syrup solids, cornstarch, maltodextrin, potato starch and flakes, beet sugar, bottled lemon juice used for flavouring and dressings, glucose syrup, the caramel colour used in cola drinks and sulphites in pizza crust. If the level of sulphites exceeds 10ppm it is required to be listed on the Ingredients panel, but often it is not.

The easiest way to avoid sulphites is to avoid all processed foods. The foods in failsafe shopping lists are sulphite-free except for some gluten-free flours with sulphite residues. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sulphite-free. Dried tree fruit such as apricots, peaches, apples and pears are mostly sulphited unless from specialty stores (see dangers of dried fruit factsheet) Dates, prunes, figs, sultanas and raisins may be sulphite-free but can contain extra high levels of salicylates. If you have done your elimination diet and challenges, and found that you react to only sulphites, you can add back the food chemicals which don't cause problems. This is the hard part - reintroducing foods without making mistakes. If your symptoms recur, you need to go back a few steps.

Sulphites in Australian foods                                                       Maximum permitted (ppm or mg/Kg)

Alcoholic beverages

Wine, sparkling and fortified, more than 35 g/L sugar     

Wine as above, less than 35 g/L sugar                          

Wine (fruit, veg, mead) , more than 5g/L sugar               

Wine as above, less than 5g/L sugar                             

Mixed alcoholic drinks                                                  

Beer 

Cider (eg pear cider)                                                                           

Baked goods

As a dough conditioner                                                

Flour products incl noodles and pasta                           

Biscuits, cakes and pastry                                            

Beverages, non-alcoholic

Fruit juice, drinks, soft drinks, cordials                          

Condiments and relishes

Chutneys                                                                     

Pickles, pickled onions, gherkins                                  

Vinegars and related products                                      

Sauces and toppings, mayonnaise                                

Fish and shellfish

Uncooked crustaceans (prawns, shrimps, crab, crayfish, lobster)           

Cooked crustaceans                                                     

Fully preserved fish incl canned products                                  

Canned abalone                                                                       

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Fresh prepared salads and fruit salads (illegal but it happens)

Grapes packed with permeable envelopes                     

Processed fruits and vegetables

Candied fruit and vegetables                                        

Dried fruit (in fruit bars etc)                                           

Desiccated coconut                                                     

Mixed dried fruit (in cakes)                                            

Imitation fruit (eg cherries)                                             

Apples and potatoes for manufacturing                         

Fruit and veg preparation for manufacturing                   

Fruit and veg preparation incl pulp                                  

Avocado, frozen                                                                      

Carrots, dried (in cake)                                                 

Dried vegetables                                                          

Potatoes (hot chips, French fries)                                 

Gelatine

Gelatine                                                                       

Grain products and pasta

Softening of corn kernels for starch                              

Meat

Deli meats                                                                   

Minced beef (sulphites are illegal but mince often contains the much as sausages

Sausages and sausage meat (raw)                                

Edible casings                                                             

Nuts and nut products

Desiccated coconut                                                     

Sugars and syrups

Glucose syrup                                                              

Molasses                                                         

Sweet sauces, toppings, syrups          

Fruit toppings, syrups                                       

 

400

250

300

200

250

25

250

60

300

300

 

115

 

285

750

100

350

 

100

30

30

1000

 

0

10

 

2000

3000

50

3000

3000

200

1000

350

300

3000

3000

200

 

750

 

60

 

500

0

500

500

 

50

 

450

450

 

350 

 

Sulphites in US foods

 

  • Alcoholic beverages Wine, beer cocktail mixes, wine coolers
  • Baked goods Cookies, crackers, mixes with dried fruit or vegetables, pie crust, pizza crust, flour tortillas
  • Beverage bases Dried citrus fruit beverage mixes
  • Condiments and relishes Horseradish, onion and pickle relishes, pickles, olives, salad dressing mixes, wine vinegar
  • Confections and frostings Brown, raw, powdered or white sugar derived from sugar beet
  • Dairy product analogues Filled milk (skim milk enriched with vegetable oils)
  • Fish and shellfish Canned clams; fresh, frozen, canned or dried shrimps; frozen lobster, scallops, dried cod
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables Banned except for fresh pre-cut potatoes and sulphur dioxide used as a fungicide on grapes
  • Processed fruits Canned, bottled or frozen fruit juices (including lemon, lime, grape, apple); dried fruit;
  • Processed fruits (cont) canned, bottled or frozen dietetic fruit or fruit juices; maraschino cherries, glazed fruit
  • Processed vegetables Vegetable juices; canned vegetables (including potatoes); pickled vegetables (including sauerkraut, cauliflower, and peppers);
  • Processed vegetables (cont) dried vegetables; instant mashed potatoes; frozen potatoes; potato salad
  • Gelatins, puddings, fillings Fruit fillings, flavoured and unflavoured gelatin, pectin, jelling agents
  • Grain products and pasta Cornstarch, modified food starch, spinach pasta, gravies, hominy, breading, batters, noodle/rice mixes
  • Jams and jellies Jams and jellies
  • Nuts and nut products Shredded coconut
  • Plant protein products Soy protein products
  • Snack foods Dried fruits snacks, trail mixes, filled crackers
  • Soup and soup mixes Canned soups, dried soup mixes
  • Sweet sauces, toppings Corn syrup, maple syrup, fruit toppings, high-fructose corn syrup, pancake syrup, molasses
  • and syrups
  • Tea Instant tea, liquid tea concentrates

[from Fazio T and Warner CR A review of sulphites in foods. Food additives and contaminants 1990;7(4):433-454]

Eating out

For children in Australia, most social occasions are likely to involve sulphited sausages. You can ask your school to provide preservative-free sausages, or take your own (honestbeef Australia can courier-deliver frozen sausages, or check our Shopping List for butchers who will make preservative free sausages). Avoid fries and hot chips. Instant mashed potato and fruit cordials, used extensively in some day care centres because they are cheap, can be a source of sulphites for young children.

It is easiest to eat at a few places that you know well. Ask about ingredients. Plain foods like steak or grilled fish and jacket potatoes are safest. Avoid commercial soups, dips, sauces, gravies and dressings.

Liz suggests: "It is really trial and error. I stick to things that are as fresh and as natural as possible. Chinese and Thai food is okay for me especially if they use lots of veges and I always go where they don't use MSG. I avoid takeaway food as much as possible, as most pre-prepared foods have metabisulphite in them. If I must eat out, I choose salad on rolls or brown rye, and avoid dressings. I don't eat takeaway pizzas, preferring to make my own so I have control over what goes into them. Before ordering anything when out, ask what has gone into it. If there are any doubts, don't order it. You soon get to know what you can and can't eat."

Children's sulphite intake

Major sulphite sources for children include dried fruit, sausages, drinks and sometimes, hot chips or fries, see below for possible sulphite intake per serve.

  • dried fruit 16 mg in one dried apricot
  • sausages 8 mg in half a thin sausage
  • drinks 5 mg in one glass of cordial
  • hot chips 1 mg in half a cup of hot chips
     

Sulphites in minced meat

As part of the worldwide attempt by food regulators to reduce sulphite intake, in Australia and Europe sulphites have been banned in minced meat although not in sausages, some processed meats (such as devon or frankfurters) and burgers which contain a minimum of 4% cereal products (also called rissoles or patties). Some butchers choose not to comply with this regulation, since sulphites are a very effective preservative, maintaining or restoring the rich red colour of 'fresh' meat long after the meat has ceased to be fresh. A NSW food authority survey found 2003 found 56% of mince samples contained illegal sulphites. To be really sure that your mince is sulphite free, you must quiz your butcher thoroughly or test it yourself with sulphite test strips, available from us at cost.

FIN Campaign: Survey of sulphites in mince

You can test your mince, sausages and drinks using sulphite test strips, available at cost from the Food Intolerance Network

sulphitestripall

Sulphites in potato products

Potato products are considered to be a major source of sulphites in the US. In Australia, whether frozen French fries are sulphited depends on which factory, not which brand, did the processing. A small survey of takeaway hot chips found that the majority of samples were sulphite free, but there is no way for consumers to know which ones are safe, and Australian asthmatics have reported reactions to takeaway hot chips (see story [443]). Dried mashed potato – used extensively in some childcare centres and some processed foods such as pies or chicken patties – is highly sulphited. The FDA website warns asthmatics: 'If you want to eat potatoes when out, order a baked potato rather than fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes or any dish that involves peeling the potato first. For a snack, potato crisps are safe, fries are not.

Wine without wheeze

Is it possible to make a decent sulphite-free wine? Former Australian Magazine wine writer Max Allen thought so. He devoted an entire column to a rave review of the 1999 Happs PF Red, 'a brilliant, young, dark purple colour, with good, bold, berry fruit and a spicy, direct whack of juicy current flavour in the mouth'. Since then Happs have also introduced a PF white, see the Happs website for stockists and others in our Shopping List. Note that preservative-free wine is not suitable for salicylate responders and many not be suitable for extra sensitive sulphite responders. Stick to your gin and tonic, whisky and soda or vodka.

You can also add some peroxide to destroy the sulphites. Two products that will do this are SO2GO and Purewine.

Exceeding the limit

Sulphites in processed foods and drinks sometimes massively exceed legal limits. In 2003, bottles of Australian Creston Bay Brand Cabernet Shiraz red wine were withdrawn from sale by the Lidl European supermarket chain when sulphur dioxide was found at up to 17 times the permitted level. Authorities commented, "This amount could trigger an attack in a person with asthma who uncorks a bottle and inhales the smell without even tasting the wine."

Sulphite regulations

Who's watching?

In Australia, sulphites are not permitted on fresh fish. One mother reported 'we know if a food contains sulphites because my son has trouble breathing within a minute of eating it. Most fish is OK but occasionally he reacts'. Prawns always contain sulphites to preserve colour. The maximum permitted level is 30 ppm, but how well is it monitored? One seafood worker explained how they use 'metta' (sodium metabisulphite, 223). It is a white powder sprinkled over sackfuls of fresh prawns by people wearing rubber gloves. Some prawns must have higher readings than others.

While we were testing recipes, my husband noticed that there were no sulphites listed on the brand of glucose syrup available in our supermarket. Since one of his first jobs as a food scientist involved monitoring sulphite levels in glucose syrup, he contacted the company. They assured him they were using up old labels and would list it on the new labels. We watched with interest. It was three years before sulphites appeared on those labels.

The rise and fall of sulphites

In developing countries such as India and Indonesia where traditional foods are additive free, the childhood asthma rate is about 2 per cent, although it rises with the introduction of the Western diet. In Australia, the rate of childhood asthma rose from about 10 per cent in the 1970s to about 30 per cent today. There are now signs that the increase in asthma rates in developed countries may have peaked. Asthma experts are unable to explain these changes; however, we suggest that the asthma rate corresponds with additive consumption levels, especially sulphites, in processed foods, which increased during the last two decades of the twentieth century, and are stabilising now that food regulators are finally taking monitoring, surveillance and labeling of sulphites more seriously. If sulphites are slowly phased out according to WHO recommendations, we can expect childhood asthma rates to drop, but in the meantime, asthmatics need to know about sulphites.

What you can do

The FDA warns that sulphite-sensitive asthmatics should never assume a food is safe to eat:

  • If the food is packaged, read the label.
  • If food is not packaged, eg sausages or deli meat, check ingredients with the manager.
  • When eating out, check ingredients with the waiter or manager. Avoid foods listed above.
  • Always carry your asthma medication when eating out.
  • If you have ever had a severe reaction to sulphites, carry injectable adrenaline with you.
     

"It takes some doing, but you can take steps to minimize your contact with sulfites if you are diagnosed with asthma or sulfite sensitivity … But you may not even know you have a problem with sulfites until a reaction occurs. Undiagnosed people are at risk because even if they know that sulfites can cause adverse reactions, they often don't associate sulfites with their own health problems." – FDA consumer safety officer Dr JoAnn Ziyad (full article)

Consumers shouldn't have to go through all this. Unbiased scientists at the Centre for Science in the Public Interest recommended banning sulphites 25 years ago. In the meantime, food scientists have developed more alternatives.

"The obvious public health response would be to remove the irritants, if possible, from the foods that children eat."

- Centre for Science in the Public Interest

The answer is clear: REFUSE TO BUY! And tell the food companies of your decision.

Scientific references

Abstracts of most papers listed below are available on the medical database PubMed

 

History of sulphites

  • Bell S Social networks and innovation in the South American meat industry during the pre-refrigeration era: Southern Brazil and Uruguay in comparison. Revista Electronica de Geographia y Ciencias Sociales. Universidad de Barcelona. 2000, 69(84).
  • Taylor SL, Higley NA, Bush RK. Sulfites in foods: uses, analytical methods, residues, fate, exposure assessment, metabolism, toxicity, and hypersensitivity. Adv Food Res 1986;30:1-76.
  • USFDA article - "Sulphites: safe for most, dangerous for some" by Ruth Papazian (December 1996)

 

Sulphites destroy thiamine

  • Members of the Australian Veterinarian Association continue to complain about the lack of protection against sulphites for Australian pets, e.g Undeclared and toxic levels of sulphites detected in pet meats by Dr Robert Steel, 02 March 2012. "Further inhouse testing for sulphites, in January-February 2012, in pet meats sold to pet owners in N.S.W. reveal toxic undeclared, unregulated levels of this generic preservative." http://www.ava.com.au for the latest news, search for <sulphite>
  • Steel RJ. Thiamine deficiency in a cat associated with the preservation of 'pet meat' with sulphur dioxide. Aust Vet J. 1997;75(10):719-21
  • Quattrucci E, Masci V. Nutritional aspects of food preservatives. Food Addit Contam. 1992;9(5):515-25. This paper also discusses the effect of sulphites on folate – a vitamin which is now used to fortify certain foods such as bread

 

Sulphites associated with a full range of food intolerance symptoms especially asthma

  • Feingold BF, Recognition of food additives as a cause of symptoms of allergy, Ann Allergy 1968;26:309-13.
  • Genton C, Frei PC, Pecoud A. Value of oral provocation tests to aspirin and food additives in the routine investigation of asthma and chronic urticaria. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1985 Jul;76(1):40-5.
  • Freedman BJ Asthma induced by sulphur dioxide, benzoate and tartrazine contained in orange drinks. Clin Allergy 1977 7(5):407-15.
  • Baker GJ, Collett P, Allen DH. Bronchospasm induced by metabisulphite-containing foods and drugs. Med J Aust 1981; 2:614-6.
  • Yang WH, Purchase ECR. Adverse reactions to sulfites, Can Med Assoc J 1985;133:865-880.
  • Friedman ME, Easton JG Prevalence of positive metabisulfite challenges in children with asthma. Pediatr Asthma Aller Immunol 1987;1:53-59.
  • Timberlake CM, Toun AK, Hudson BJ, Precipitation of asthma attacks in Melanesian adults by sodium metabisulphite. PNG Med J 35:186-190, 1992.
  • Steinman HA, Le Roux M, Potter PC. Sulphur dioxide sensitivity in South African asthmatic children, S Afr Med J 1993; 83: 387-390.
  • Corder EH, Buckely CE 3rd, Aspirin, salicylates, sulfite and tartrazine induced bronchoconstruction. Safe doses and case definition in epidemiological studies. J Clin Epidemiol 1995; 48(10): 1269-75.
  • Gastaminza G, Quirce S, Torres M, Tabar A, Echechipia S, Munoz Fernandex de Corres L, Pickled onion-induced asthma: a model of sulfite-sensitive asthma? Clin Exp Allergy 1996;25(8):698-703.
  • Hodge L, Yan KY, Loblay RL. Assessment of food chemical intolerance in adult asthmatic subjects. Thorax. 1996 Aug;51(8):805-9.
  • Gall H, Boehncke WH, Gietzen K. Intolerance to sodium metabisulfite in beer. Allergy. 1996;51(7):516-7.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "Inactive" ingredients in pharmaceutical products. Pediatrics 1997;99(2):268-278.
  • Arai Y, Muto H, Sano Y, Ito K. Food and food additives hypersensitivity in adult asthmatics. III Adverse reactions to sulfites in adult asthmatics. Arerugi 1998 47(11):1163-7.

 

Salad bar deaths

  • Tollefson L. Monitoring adverse reactions to food additives in the U.S. Food and Drug Administation. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1988 8(4):438-46.

 

Number of sulphite sensitive children

  • Towns SJ, Mellis CM. Role of acetyl salicylic acid and sodium metabisulfite in chronic childhood asthma. Pediatrics. 1984 ;73(5):631-7. This paper found more than 65 per cent of asthmatic children were sulphite sensitive
  • World Health Organisation - Fifty-first meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Safety Evaluation of sulfur dioxide and sulfites and addendum, Geneva: World Health Organisation, 1999, http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v042je06.htm

 

How to avoid sulphites

 

Sulphites in minced meat and sausages

  • Magee E, Edmond L, Cummings J, Intakes of sulphur containing additives and their stability in food during storage (Project A01021), UK Food Standards Agency, 2001.
  • Armentia-Alvarez A and others, Residual levels of free and total sulphite in fresh and cooked burgers. Food Addit Contam 1993;10(2):157-165.
  • Scottish Food Co-ordination Committee. A survey of the level of sulphur dioxide preservatives in minced meat in Scotland 1988-1992. http://archive.food.gov.uk/ scottish_exec/pdf/sulphdi.pdf (accessed June 6, 2004).
  • Zubeldia Lauzurica L and others, Presence of sulfites in minced meat and meat products prepared in industries of the Valencia community, Rev Espana Salud Publica 1997, 71(4), 401-7.
  • In 2003, the NSW Food Authority found 58 per cent of samples tested found illegal sulphites in mince, http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/industry_pdf/Foodwise_December_05.pdfshowing that butchers will use sulphites in mince unless there is constant monitoring.

 

Children's sulphite intake

Dried fruit can contain extremely high amounts of sulphites, at the legal limit which is very high, or even above – see:

  • Dried Tree Fruit Annual Industry Report, 2004,  '…an increased emphasis on monitoring sulphur dioxide levels in the fruit during the drying process has controlled residues to within acceptable levels, overcoming last season's compliance issues'
  • Rigg, A. Sulphur dioxide in sausages and other products. ACT Health services. Food survey reports, 1996-7 www.health.act.gov : 'some of the [dried fruit] samples do come close to exceeding the limit of 3000 mg/kg … the higher levels of sulphur dioxide were found in the dried stone fruits, such as apricots and peaches …'
  • Campbell, L. Sulfur dioxide content in dried fruits, Year 12 Chemistry Report, Balmoral State High School, Brisbane, 2003. This report contains an analysis of three samples each of dried apricots, peaches and pears from Turkey, repackaged and sold under an Australian brand name. In the 1980s and 90s, Turkey started exporting cheap dried fruits and has since become the world's leading supplier of dried fruit.
  • Dried pears need a particularly high level of sulphur dioxide to prevent browning and all samples of dried pears were above the legal limit; Primary Industry Trade Report: Specific Tariffs and other Non-Quarantine Barriers:'EU - unachievable maximum residue levels for sulphur dioxide on dried pears (Italy is the only producer in the world that can market a semi-dried pear that meets the residue level)'. Primary Industry Trade Report (click on Chapter 5 to download document regarding pears)
  • Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. Dietary intake of food additives in the UK: initial surveillance. Surveillance Information Sheet No 37, London: HMSO, 1993; Food Standards Agency (UK). Survey of sulphur dioxide in soft drinks. Food Survey Information Sheet May 2004 http://tna.europarchive.org and the ANZFA survey, above.
  • Joint Food Safety and Standards Group Food surveillance information sheet: Survey of sulphur dioxide and benzoic acid in foods and drinks, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF UK), number 65, June 1995] http://products.ihs.com/Ohsis-SEO/167762.html
  • Leclerq C and others, Dietary intake exposure to sulphites in Italy, Food Addit Contam, 2000, 17(12):979-989.

 

Sulphites in potato products

  • Papazian, R. Sulfites: Safe for Most, Dangerous for Some, 1996, 
  • Sulphites in potato products - can be "as high as 500 or 1000 ppm" in fries, according to Warner CS, Diachenko GW, Bailey CJ, Sulfites: an important food safety issue. FDA Consumer Magazine, US Food and Drug Administration, December 2000, 
  • More testing is needed for sulphited hot chips in Australia as there has only been one small survey: Australia New Zealand Food Authority, 1994 Australian Market Basket Survey, 1996, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Testing in the UK showed that both hot chips and instant dried potato contained high levels of sulphites, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Dietary intake of food additives in the UK: initial surveillance. Surveillance Information Sheet No 37. London: HMSO, 1993.

 

Sulphites in wine

 

Exceeding the limit

  • Wine 17 times the legal limit http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2003/nov/red_wine.
  • Many years after sulphites were banned in mince, a survey in Scotland found not only evidence of illegal sulphites but one sample contained nearly 6 times the previous legal limit: Scottish Food Co-ordination Committee. A survey of the level of sulphur dioxide preservatives in minced meat in Scotland 1988-1992. 
  • In Spain, a similar survey found a burger that contained 15 times the legal limit: Zubeldia Lauzurica L and others, Presence of sulfites in minced meat and meat products prepared in industries of the Valencia community, Rev Espana Salud Publica 1997, 71(4), 401-7.

 

The rise and fall of sulphites

  • Childhood asthma rates - International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Steering Committee. Worldwide variations in the prevalence of asthma symptoms: the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Eur Respir J 1998;12(2):315-35. This study showed that childhood asthma rates are highest in English and Spanish speaking countries, which traditionally use sulphites in meat, except for USA which stopped using sulphites in meat in 1959 - and has a lower asthma rate than any other developed English speaking country despite a higher intake overall of processed food.
     
 
 
 

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians http://fedup.com.au/information/support/dietitians 

© Sue Dengate update December 2013

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