Sulphite Allergy

What are Sulphites?

Sulphites naturally occur in food and in our body. As a food additive, it is highly regulated because it is used as a preservative – to helps to keep food fresh longer and to help maintain the original colour of a food.

Sulphites are also used to preserve the potency of certain medications, and can even be added as a bleaching agent for starchy foods such as potatoes. Packing materials such as cellophane can also contain sulphites. Now you see why it is a regulated substance!

In Canada, there are certain types of sulphites allowed in our food production processes. They are:

  • potassium bisulphite
  • potassium metabisulphite
  • sodium bisulphite
  • sodium dithionite
  • sodium metabisulphite
  • sodium sulphite
  • sulphur dioxide
  • sulphurous acid

These same substances go by the following names as well:

  • “sulphiting agents”
  • “sulphites”
  • “sulfiting agents”

Are sulphites safe to eat?

Sulphites are safe to consume for a majority of the population. However, there are individuals that have a higher level of sensitivity to sulphites. The reactions can range from anaphylactic shock, to asthmatic symptoms, to a light rash.

In some cases, a person suffering from asthma will have a sensitivity to sulphites without knowing it. Of course, not all who have asthma are allergic to sulphites, but it may be of interest to get checked with an Ottawa allergy specialist.

How can I avoid a sulphite-related reaction?

The best way to is to avoid any type of contact with packaging, or processed foods containing sulphites. Always be sure to read the labels of the goods you purchase and pay particular attention to warnings marked on the package.

Avoiding sulphites and sulphite derivatives

Read all labels, become familiar with sulphite derivatives and chemical names, and keep in mind that food manufacturers can change their recipes for the different varieties of the same brand – you need to stay sharp!