Why should we avoid sodium sulfite? What are the sodium sulfite hazards?
Sodium sulfite is a preservative with an E number of E221. E numbers are used to identify food additives. It is also known by these other names; Disodium Sulfite; Anhydrous Sodium Sulfite; Sulfurous acid, disodium salt.
Sodium Sulfite (also spelled ‘sulphite’) is used in wine, dried fruit, cut potatoes, beer, fruit jelly, syrup, maraschino cherries, soup, baked goods, canned and frozen fruits & veggies, sauce, spices, fruit juice, seafood, packaged lemon juice, soft drinks, tomato products and parmesan cheese.
According to FDA figures, around one percent of people are sensitive to sulfites. Mostly those who suffer from asthma which suggests a link between asthma and sulfites. People who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, shortness of breath, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can cause death by closing airways totally, leading to cardiac arrest.
Sulfites are also known to destroy the vitamin B1.
In 1986, the FDA banned use of this preservative on raw fruit and veggies after several deaths that were linked to it’s use. Sulfites are also found in packaged foods. If sulfite levels exceed 10ppm (FDA) and 10mg/kg (EU) then it must be listed on the label.
Sadly, just because a label doesn’t list sulfites doesn’t mean none are present because if foods contain products like a spice mix that contains sulfites, labels don’t need to list it on the label. This is why I added a list of products that contain sulfites. This means, for example, that a product containing dried fruit (which is treated with sulfur dioxide) need only state “dried fruit” on the ingredient list.
Sodium Sulfite Hazards – Possible Health Effects
According to the California Department of Public Healh:Some people are allergic to sulfites. Many asthmatics may have breathing problems within minutes of eating a food that contains sulfites and the reaction can be fatal.
Other hazards include: migraine headaches, hives, anaphylactic shock, and nausea. See this report And they’re putting this stuff in our food!
Are these sodium sulfite hazards enough to make you want to avoid the dangers of this additive? Want to find out about some more additives to avoid? See our series on Food Additives to Avoid series.