Where Might You Find Sulfites

  • A variety of cooked, processed, and baked foods
  • Dried fruits, canned vegetables, guacamole, maraschino cherries
  • Condiments, jams, gravies, dehydrated or precut or peeled potatoes, molasses, shrimp, soup mixes
  • Beverages such as wine, beer, hard cider, fruit and vegetable juices, tea

Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

include wheezing, diarrhea, stomach ache, hives, or swelling. Fortunately, side effects are mild for most people. However, reactions may become life-threatening for those who are very sensitive to sulfite. In rare cases these individuals may experience anaphylactic shock. As with other food intolerances and allergies, consult a doctor if you think you're sulfitesensitive. Don't self-diagnose.

Because sulfites can trigger intense reactions in sulfite-sensitive asthmatics, the U.S. FDA prohibits the use of sulfites on fruits and vegetables (except potatoes) intended to be served or sold raw. In the past, sulfites were sometimes used to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer on restaurant salad bars, but that's no longer allowed.

Sulfites also can destroy the B vitamin called thi-amin. For that reason they're not allowed in foods such as enriched bread and flour. These foods are major sources of thiamin in the American diet.

If you're among those rare individuals who are sulfite-sensitive, follow these guidelines:

  • Check food labels. Choose foods without sulfite-containing additives. Be aware that they're used in varying amounts in many packaged foods—not just dried fruit, dehydrated potatoes, and fruit juices. By law, when sulfites are present in detectable amounts, the label must say so. See "Where Might You Find Sulfites?" in this chapter.
  • Check alcoholic beverages. Labels on beer and wine must state "Contains Sulfites" if applicable. De-alcoholized beer and wine may contain sulfites.
  • Ask questions in restaurants before you order. For example, ask if dried or canned foods, vegetables, or potato products contain—or were treated with— sulfites.

People sensitive to sulfites can consume foods with sulfates. Sulfates don't cause the same adverse reaction in sulfite-sensitive people.

Coloring... by Any Other Name!

Although the incidence is rare, a very small number of people are sensitive to a coloring added to food. FD&C Yellow No. 5, also called tartrazine, is a dye used to color foods, beverages, and medications. Research indicates that FD&C Yellow No. 5 may trigger hives, itching, and nasal congestion but not

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