What are sulfites and why do so many foods contain them?

Wine has sulfites

Sulfites are additives present in many of the foods we consume daily. Reason why controversy has arisen around these and their possible negative effects on health. That is why today we talk about what sulfites are, what they are used for in the food industry, how they are indicated on the label and how they affect our health. Thus, you will briefly have all the information to draw your own conclusions.

What are sulfites and what are they for?

Sulfites are sulfur derivatives that are used as food additives for various purposes in industry. Given their preservative, antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, they are frequently used as:

  • preservatives, to prolong the shelf life of perishable foods.
  • For prevent fading of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • In winemaking processes for prevent rust some wine.
  • Como bleaching agents in the food and beverage industry.

Prawns

There are many of us who want long-lasting products in our pantry that reduce the time we invest in shopping and we must understand that for this it is necessary to use this type of additives, always, of course, with due control.

What foods are they added to?

There are many groups of foods and beverages to which sulfites are currently added intentionally, so many that the list would be extremely long. Therefore, we only mention the most important groups and those in which they are used most frequently:

foods with sulfites

  • Wines, musts and ciders, as they prevent the growth of bacteria, molds and yeasts.
  • Seafood in order to prevent them from darkening and becoming less attractive or even causing rejection in the consumer.
  • Dried fruits to maintain its color.
  • Prepared meat products: minced meat, fresh sausages, hamburgers... to preserve them and maintain a pink and fresh color.
  • Potato products such as dehydrated mashed potatoes, frozen frying potatoes...
  • Juices, to protect vitamin C.

How are they indicated?

There are eight chemical forms of these additives authorized in the European Union and if they are added to foods and drinks in an amount greater than 10 mg/Kg these must appear correctly indicated on the labeling. As? With their names (sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite...), followed by the numbers E220 to E228.

How they affect our health

The forms of sulfite that have been authorized in the European Union would not be authorized if they did not meet the requirements ofr effective, safe and necessary for a certain purpose. The quantities are, in addition, duly controlled so that the maximum quantity allowed is below that which could present any health problem. Therefore, sulfites are safe.

Now, certain people can present allergy o intolerance to this type of additives. And these manifest themselves in different ways, the most frequent being digestive problems, respiratory distress and skin reactions.

Stomach ache

Evidently those who suffer from allergies to this additive they should limit or avoid foods that contain it. All foods with an amount greater than 10 mg/Kg or 10 mg/L of sulfites, as we have said, must indicate it on the label, so identifying them will not be a problem. And those who have one less dose? Don't worry, if that limit amount has been determined it is because below those concentrations your symptoms are imperceptible.

Beyond making the purchase, those of you who suffer from allergies to this and the other 14 allergens that must be notified, will also be able to eat in peace outside the home. And the law in Spain obliges restaurants and other establishments to report their presence. The food intolerances and allergies They are not something we should take as a joke, it is important to detect them, confirm them and do everything necessary to avoid their risks.

As for other evils that are associated with sulfites, none have been proven except that certain people with asthma They may experience an increase in their symptoms. If you do not have an allergy, intolerance or severe asthma, therefore, they are harmless.


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