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Sulphites: what they are

Sulphites: what they are


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It is important to inquire about the constituents of the foods we consume every day and for this reason it is legitimate to askwhat are sulphites.

Sulphites: what they are

Sulphites are a large family of compounds containing the anionsulphite. They are widely used in the food industry such asadditivesfor thestorageof food and drink.

In particular, isulphitesare added in thewine, fruit, dehydrated potatoes, potato chips, shrimp, flour, sugar, glucose syrup and most packaged foods. Sulphites are artificially added to avoid oxidation of the food.

Betweensulphitesthat can be found in food we point out:

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Potassium bisulfite
  • Sodium bisulfite

Sulphites have a toxic effect on health, in particular, sulfur dioxide added to wine is much discussed.

Sulphites: allergy

There is no lack of cases ofallergy to sulfiteseven if, technically, the reaction wearing from sulphites cannot be properly defined "allergy".

When it comes toallergy to sulfites, in reality it refers to a very broad symptom picture. Of course, some people may demonstrate a real allergy to sulphites detected by a positive reaction to skin allergy tests but in most cases, even in the absence of a clinical allergy, thesulphitescan cause symptoms such as:

  • cough
  • Sneezing
  • Odinophagy
  • Urticaria
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Migraine

Such reactions are more common among asthmatics and those who have hypersensitivity to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin).

Foods with sulphites

Sulfites are present in many foods, some of which have been listed above.

The presence ofsulphitesin food it is not always well indicated. For example, although shrimp are often treated withsulphiteson fishing vessels, since the same element is not added later in the production chain, often thesulphiteused is not indicated on the label.

How to tell if a food contains sulphites? Often isulphitesare indicated on the label using theacronymsfor thefood additives. The abbreviations to keep an eye on are:

  • E150b - Caustic sulphite caramel
  • E150d - Ammonia sulphite caramel
  • E220 - Sulfur dioxide or Sulfur dioxide
  • E221 - Sodium sulfite
  • E222 - Sodium bisulfite
  • E223 - Sodium metabisulphite
  • E224 - Potassium metabisulfite
  • E225 - Potassium sulfite
  • E226 - Calcium sulfite
  • E227 - Calcium hydrogen sulfide
  • E228 - Potassium hydrogen sulfide

When it comes tosulphitesimmediately one thinks ofwineand beer but, as is clear, it is aboutfood additivesrather obicuitari.

Sulphites in wine

In small quantities, isulphitesthey are naturally present in wine. During the vinification, to stop the fermentation process, isulphitesare added. In addition, isulphites in winethey can be added as preservatives to prevent deterioration and oxidation in different stages of winemaking.

Inwine, the compound containing the anionsulphitemost used is thesulfur dioxide deemed toxic to humans. Why is sulfur dioxide added to wine?

Sulfur dioxide or sulfur dioxide (SO2), is added to wine not only to protect it from oxidation but also from the metabolic process of certain bacterial strains. What does it mean? That without other countermeasures, awine without sulphitesit would quickly turn into vinegar.

Theorganic wine, according to current regulations, it contains a small amount ofsulphites. Typically, theWhite winecontains moresulphitescompared toRed wine and, again generalizing, isweet winescontain moresulphitesthan the drier ones.

For more information: red wine, benefits and harm

Sulphite-free wine

Note: sulphites are produced in small quantities (10-30 mg per liter) in a completely natural way during the alcoholic fermentation of wine.

Since the 17th century, the antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of sulfur have been discovered and since then, this ingredient has been added and introduced into world wine production. In the wine they come, sulfur dioxide is added in gaseous form, in aqueous solution or in powder form (potassium bisulfite) and reaches quantities between 90 and 400 mg per liter.

In Germany and Italy some techniques have been developed to lead to the production ofsulphite-free wine. In Germany, the first "batch" of sulphite-free wines was produced in 2012, the sulphites were replaced by other additives considered "safer" for humans. This process would seem to reduce the amount of sulphites in wine by 95%.

Also in Italy, thanks to the effort of a research team from the University of Pisa, in 2015, an innovative system was patented for the production ofwine without sulphites.

As is clear, these are still very young applications and we will have to wait a long time to see them on a large scale.

For now, fordrink a wine without sulphites(or rather, with few sulphites) we must aim for organic wine.

Sulfites in beer

Today, most ofbeersno longer containssulphiteseven if in some production processes they continue to use them.


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