What Is Sulfite Sensitivity?

Sulfites are chemicals that are in some foods, either naturally or as additives. It’s rare, but some people (about 1 in 100, according to the FDA) are sensitive to these compounds. Their reaction can range from mild to life-threatening.

Sulfites aren’t used on most fresh foods, but they’re still in some cooked and processed ones. And they can also happen naturally in the process of making wine and beer.

If you’re sensitive to them, you need to avoid them. Always check labels on all food packages. When you eat out, ask your chef or server if sulfites are used or added to food before or during preparation.

What to Avoid

Examples of foods that may contain sulfites include:

  • Baked goods
  • Soup mixes
  • Jams
  • Canned vegetables
  • Pickled foods
  • Gravies
  • Dried fruit
  • Potato chips
  • Trail mix
  • Beer and wine
  • Vegetable juices
  • Sparkling grape juice
  • Apple cider
  • Bottled lemon juice and lime juice
  • Tea
  • Many condiments
  • Molasses
  • Fresh or frozen shrimp
  • Guacamole
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Dehydrated, pre-cut, or peeled potatoes

Ingredients with sulfite to look for on food labels include:

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite
  • Sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on July 23, 2016

Sources

SOURCES: 

The Food and Drug Administration. 

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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