A sulfite is a widely used preservative and is also naturally occurring in the body. Sulfites are also a natural product of fermentation. A sulfite allergy is an allergy to the ingredient sulfite which causes an immune system reaction when in contact with and/or ingested.
What foods contain sulfites?
The most common are wine, other alcoholic beverages, tea, fermented processed foods, and dried fruits. Shrimp may be treated with sulfites on board the fishing vessel after the catch and may not be listed on the label of packaged shrimp nor be communicated to the grocers. Preservatives may be called: potassium bisulfate, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfate, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite. Medication, such as IV fluids may also contain sulfites, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist to check ingredients before prescribing medication. With over-the-counter drugs you can ask your pharmacist for help with looking up ingredients.
Are sulfites listed on the label as an ingredient?
In the U.S. sulfite is not required to be on the ingredients label. With the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act manufacturers are doing a better job at declaring all ingredients on the package label. If in doubt about a product call the manufacturer. Sulfites naturally occur in wine, so no wine will be completely free of sulfites. Some wines will have no added sulfites or low sulfites and be labeled as such.
If you suspect you have food allergies, see your doctor or allergist for testing and diagnosis. Knowing what foods to avoid and carrying emergency medicine like epinephrine, if needed, can save your life if you have a serious allergy.