Sulfites are sulfur-based compounds that individuals can be exposed to in two ways: compounds that occur naturally or they may be added to food to enhance the food or to preserve it. Individual can develop sensitivity to sulfites at anytime in their life.
The food and drug administration (FDA) banned the use of sulfites on fruits and vegetables and require manufacturers to properly label their products if they use sulfites in processed products.
Sulfites can be found in several varieties of both cooked and processed foods. Sulfites also occur naturally when making beer or wine.
The only way that an individual can avoid having an allergic reaction to sulfites if they have an allergy to them is to avoid foods that are likely to contain sulfites.
It is important to ask when eating out if the chef or server knows if any of the food has been prepared with sulfites or if sulfites were added to the food at any time.
Foods that Commonly Contain Sulfites
Baked goods, soup mixes, jams, conned vegetables, pickled foods, gravy, dried fruit, potato chips, trail mix, wine and beer, vegetable juices, apple cider and sparkling grape juice, bottled lime and lemon juices, tea, many of the condiments used on a daily basis, molasses, shrimp that is fresh or frozen, guacamole dip, maraschino cherries, potatoes that have been pre-cut or dehydrated.
When reading labels searching for items that contain sulfite, be sure to look for sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite.
Sulfites are known to increase symptoms in asthmatics so they should avoid or at least limit the consumption of foods containing sulfites.
The reason sulfites are added to food is that it can reduce spoilage by bacteria, can slow the browning of fruit, vegetables and seafood, can inhibit the growth of bacteria during wine fermentation, can condition dough used in frozen pie or in pizza crust, is used as a bleaching effect for hominy and maraschino cherries.
Sulfites are also added to certain medications for the antioxidant properties and to help prevent browning of the medication. You will also find that sulfites have been added to injectable epinephrine such as the popular Epi-Pen. This is to prevent browning but also decreases the effectiveness of the drug.
Using sulfite in Epi-Pen has been shown not to cause allergic reaction in those using the Epi-pen who is allergic to sulfites. Those allergic to sulfite and are experiencing anaphylaxis should not hesitate to use the Epi-Pen as it could be life saving.
Other injectable medications may also contain sulfites such as Dopamine, Gentamycin, Isoproterenol, Lidocaine with epinephrine, Meperidine (Demerol) and Chloropromazine (Thorazine) among others.
Some asthma inhalers contain sulfites such as Adrenalin chloride, Bronkosol, and also Isuprel hyudrochloride solution. Eye drops such as Pred-Mild, Pred-Forte, Sulfacetamide, Prednisol and dexamethasone also contain sulfites.