Sulphites are sulphur-based chemical compounds that sometimes occur naturally in foods but are also used as preservatives. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately one out of every 100 people is sensitive to sulphites. Most reactions are mild, but some people, particularly those with asthma, have severe reactions. Sulphites were used as a preservative on fresh fruits and vegetables until 1986, when the FDA banned this use.
Sulphite Compounds Found in Food
Six sulfiting agents are used in food preparation in the U.S.: potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, sodium sulphite and sulphur dioxide. Any sulphite occurring in a concentration of greater than 10 parts per million must be listed on the ingredients list of a food product.
Foods Containing Sulfites
Sulphites occur in baked goods including mixes with dried fruits and vegetables, crackers, pie crusts, soft pretzels and waffles. Condiments with sulphites include pickles, wine vinegar, jam and salad dressing mixes. Frostings and toppings with sulphites include icing sugar, maple syrup, packaged frosting mixes, brown sugar, raw sugar, white sugar and fruit toppings. Fish with sulphites include canned shrimp, scallops, frozen shrimp, crab and canned clams. Snacks with sulphites include dried fruit snacks, pudding, hard candy, crisps and trail mix. Grain products with sulphites include spinach pasta, rice mixes, cornstarch and gravies. Fruit and vegetable products with sulphites include maraschino cherries, canned vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, all dried fruits, chives, spices, raisins, bottled fruit, glazed fruit, fresh potatoes, dried vegetables and potato salad.
Beverages Containing Sulfites
Sulphites occur naturally in the fermentation process used to make wine, beer and liquor, and are also found in wine coolers. You can find sulphites in canned, bottled and frozen fruit juice; vegetable juice; drinks containing corn syrup; cocktail mixes; lemonade mixes, and liquid tea concentrates.