Do you suffer from a baffling food reaction? One common sensitivity is triggered not by a particular food but by food preservatives containing sulfite that are often used in wine, beer, meats, shrimp, processed foods, and even some medications.
Sulfite-bearing preservatives may cause allergic- and asthmatic-type reactions as well as chronic fatigue, brain fog, vertigo, hives, and digestive issues. Allergy tests will not reveal a sulfite sensitivity; healthcare providers must administer minute doses to determine a patient’s risk.
The FDA banned sulfite use on fresh vegetables and fruits in 1986 following several outbreaks of sulfite-related allergic attacks; the agency also mandated that all food labeling include sulfite preservatives. But, just reading the labels may not protect you from a reaction. Sometimes sulfites are not used directly in foods but show up in unlisted secondary ingredients.
“There’s a wide variety of foods sulfite preservatives can be used in,” explains Life Time nutritionist Samantha McKinney-Bielawski, RD, LD. “And to make it worse, there are certain foods — like shrimp, for example — that sulfites commonly show up in, but not every time. This means that sometimes a food is tolerated and sometimes it is not.”
She offers the following advice for dealing with sulfite sensitivity:
“Check every single ingredient on the label; sulfites can show up in various forms. While the ingredients of concern often have sulfite or sulphite in the ingredient name, it’s not a guarantee,” McKinney-Bielawski says. “Always be sure to check the allergen statement as well. Convenience foods, even healthy ones like sliced apples in sealed baggies, often can contain these triggers.”