Sulfites are used in the food industry to prevent oxidation and spoilage of food, preserve flavor, control bacterial growth and bleach food starches. Sulfites are metabolized by the enzyme sulfite oxidase. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology some people are enzyme deficient, which can lead to a sulfite intolerance or allergy. A sulfite allergy can cause asthma, hives, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizure, anaphylactic shock, dizziness and skin disorders. You can manage a sulfite allergy by avoiding sulfites, sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfate, potassium bisulfate, sulfating agents and sulfurous acid, all of which indicate the presence of sulfites.
Meat & Seafood
Deli meats, hot dogs and sausages contain sulfites. Fish and seafood with sulfites include canned clams, all types of shrimp, frozen lobster, scallops and dried cod.
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Dried fruits often contain sulfites to preserve their color. Fruit products that contain sulfites include canned, bottled and frozen fruit juices, glazed fruits, fruit toppings and maraschino cherries.
Vegetable juice, canned and dried vegetables, pickled vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, frozen potatoes and canned tomato products often contain sulfites.
The use of sulfites in baked goods varies depending on the manufacturer, so it is best to check ingredient labels prior to purchasing commercially prepared baked goods. Products that may contain sulfites include cookies, crackers, pie, pizza crust and flour tortillas.
Packaged and Instant Products
Multiple convenience foods contain sulfites including canned soups, dried soup mixes, gravy mixes, bread and batter mixes, instant rice and pasta mixes and plain and flavored gelatins. Condiments with sulfites are horseradish, relish, pickles, olives, salad dressings, wine vinegars, jams and jellies.
Most alcohols have sulfites, which are produced during the fermentation process. Instant tea, tea concentrates and cider also contain sulfites.
Other foods that may have sulfites include white and brown sugars derived from sugar beets, corn syrup, maple syrup, soy protein, corn starch, modified food starch and shredded coconut.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.