Sulfites in foods are often placed there as a preservative.
While most governments have banned the use of sulfites in foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, they are still commonly used to preserve dried fruits, wine making, and to preserve seafood and other meats.
Reading food labels is important if you are trying to eliminate the compounds from your diet.
See What are Sulfites for a list of common ingredient names and numbers for sulfites.
However, sometimes they aren’t always included in a list of ingredients, especially if they are in a sub-ingredient like dried coconut or dried fruit.
Sulfites in Foods List
|Food Group||Specific Foods|
|Alcoholic Beverages||Some beers, cocktail mixes, wine, wine coolers, champagne.|
|Pastries||Fruit pies, Cookies, crackers, mixes with dried fruits or vegetables, pie crust, pizza crust, quiche crust, flour tortillas.|
|Drink Mixes||Dried citrus fruit beverage mixes.|
|Condiments and Relishes||Wasabi, horseradish, onion and pickle relishes, pickles, olives, salad dressing mixes, wine vinegar, pickled ginger.|
|Sugars, Syrups||Brown, raw, powdered or white sugar derived from sugar beets. Corn syrup, maple syrup, fruit toppings, and Syrups high-fructose corn syrup, pancake syrup.|
|Dairy||Filled milk (a specially prepared skim milk in which vegetable oils, rather than animal fats, are added to increase its fat content).|
|Medicines||Antiemetics (taken to prevent nausea), cardiovascular drugs, antibiotics, tranquilizers, intravenous muscle relaxants, analgesics (painkillers), anesthetics, steroids and nebulized bronchodilator solutions (used for treatment of asthma).|
|Seafood||Canned clams; fresh, frozen, canned or dried shrimp; frozen lobster; scallops; dried cod, frozen shrimp.|
|Fresh Fruit and Vegetables||Fresh potatoes that have been cut for french fries and hash-browns.|
|Gelatins, Puddings, and Fillings||Fruit fillings, flavored and unflavored gelatin, pectin jelling agents.|
|Grains||Cornstarch, modified food starch, spinach pasta, gravies, hominy, breadings, batters, noodle/rice mixes.|
|Jams, preserves, and jellies||Jams and jellies.|
|Canned fruit products||Canned, bottled or frozen fruit juices (including lemon, lime, grape and apple); dried fruit; canned, bottled or frozen dietetic fruit or fruit juices; maraschino cherries and glazed fruit.|
|Canned Vegetable products||Vegetable juice, canned vegetables (including potatoes), pickled vegetables (including sauerkraut), dried vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, frozen potatoes and store bought potato salad.|
|Snacks||Dried fruit snacks, trail mixes, filled crackers, granola bars.|
|Soups||Canned seafood soups, dried soup mixes.|
|Teas||Instant tea, liquid tea concentrates, canned tea drinks.|
Eliminating sulfites in foods can be difficult, but the above table gives people a good idea of the most common foods that contain them.
Although no foods have a high concentration of sulfites, when many of the above foods are combined and eaten regularly, some people can have moderate to severe reactions to the chemical.
Luckily, because of increased awareness of the dangers of these preservatives, many manufacturers are producing foods in the above list that are free of them.
- Iyengar, R., & McEvily, A. J. (1992). Anti-browning agents: alternatives to the use of sulfites in foods. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 3, 60-64. link
- Kim, H. J., & Kim, Y. K. (1986). Analysis of free and total sulfites in food by ion chromatography with electrochemical detection. Journal of Food Science, 51(5), 1360-1361. link
- Anderson, C., Warner, C. R., Daniels, D. H., & Padgett, K. L. (1985). Ion chromatographic determination of sulfites in foods. Journal-Association of Official Analytical Chemists, 69(1), 14-19. link
- Taylor, S. L., Higley, N. A., & Bush, R. K. (1986). Sulfites in foods: uses, analytical methods, residues, fate, exposure assessment, metabolism, toxicity, and hypersensitivity. Advances in Food Research, 30, 1-76. link