Exploring sulphites in food


I used to choose the GOLDEN dried apricots, till I realized it is not its real color:)

Good to know:

Sulphites are preservatives

Sulphites are preservatives which are commonly used in food. Their primary function is to prevent or reduce spoilage (antimicrobial and enzyme inhibitor functions) and browning (bleaching agent function) during the preparation, storage, and distribution of many foods (1). The list of food types where sulphites are used is looong. Foods and drinks that often contain sulphites include (1, 2):

Drinks  Canned, bottled or frozen soft drinks and fruit
Vegetable juice
Wine (including sparkling wine)
Processed fruits and vegetablesCanned and frozen fruit fillings and syrups
Jams, jellies, sauces and fruit toppings
Dried fruits and vegetables like apricots, maraschino cherries, coconut, raisins and sweet potato
Dehydrated, mashed, peeled and pre-cut potatoes, including French fries
Tomato pastes, pulps and purees
Condiments like horseradish, ketchup, mustard, pickles and relishes Bottled lemon and lime juices and concentrates
Pickled vegetables (including sauerkraut)
Soy products
SweetenersMaple syrup, dextrose, glucose solids and syrup and molasses
Fish and crustaceans  Canned clams fresh, frozen, canned, or dried shrimp
Frozen lobster
Dried cod
Baked goodsGranola bars (especially with dried fruits) biscuits
Bread, pie and pizza dough
OtherVinegar and wine vinegar
Cereal, cornmeal, cornstarch, crackers and muesli
beef stew
Noodle and rice mixes
Foods and drinks which commonly include sulphites

Since early 1920th, sulphites were under concern and regulations for its use in food were applied (3). Sulphites could sensibilise and act as a trigger for those who suffer from asthma or migraine.

The individuals at ‘risk’ to overdose an average daily intake (ADI) of sulphites are among the regular wine consumers (4).

From the personal experience:

To my surprise, headache and hangover feeling which I had once after a party with non-alcoholic wine was the same as after alcoholic wine (luckily, my winy experience has already gone many years ago). So, most likely, in my opinion, sulphites are partly responsible for the wine-induced headache, but not alcohol in moderate doses by itself.

Tips and tricks to avoid sulphites in your food:

  • Read the labels, knowing E-numbers or sulphites names one could navigate in the ocean of sulphites:
Sulphur dioxide  E-220
Sodium sulphite  E-221
Sodium hydrogen sulphite (Sodium bisulphite)  E-222
Sodium metabisulphite  E-223
Potassium metabisulphite  E-224
Calcium sulphite  E-226
Calcium hydrogen sulphite  E-227
Potassium hydrogen sulphite  E-228
List of food additives (E-numbers) which are known as sulphites
  • Make a short observation of food, some food products talk by themselves:
Dried apricots of different color: usually its color indicates whether sulphites are used or not
  • Cook at home or take your cooked food as “take away”, because public places serving street food or “cakes and ice-creams” usually do not provide a clear list of all the ingredients, except restaurants.


(1) Short review of sulphites as food additives by Garcia-Fuentes AR, Wirtz S, Vos E, Verhagen H. European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety. 2015:113-20.

(2) What you need to know about sulphites, online source:  https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Food-technology/What-you-need-to-know-about-sulphites.aspx

(3) A simple method of testing for the presence of sulphites in food-stuffs by Albert E. Parkes, 1926

(4) Estimation of sulphite in food in France by François‐Collange M, Suschetet M. Food Additives & Contaminants. 1992;9(5):541-9.

2019-2023 © Dr. Alisa Palatronis

Disclaimer and Usage policy

One thought on “Exploring sulphites in food

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.