Practical tips for managing sulphite sensitivity
A sulphite-free diet is fairly hard to implement and requires lifestyle changes, as more time has to be spent cooking foods and shopping – but it is worth it for a sensitive individual!
• Pre-prepared and packaged foods, sauces, vinegars and condiments, many snacks and soft drinks, most wine, all ciders and most beers have to be avoided.
• Choose organically produced baked products or invest in a breadmaker.
• All food has to be freshly prepared from ingredients, ideally organic, that are known to be sulphite free.
• Frozen seafood, dried fruit, dried vegetables and frozen potato products should be avoided at all costs, unless from organic sources.
• Even when buying organic, check the label as sometimes non-organic ingredients can creep in (eg onion/garlic powder or potato starch).
• Keep a well stocked larder, to avoid the need for takeaways and convenience foods.
• Consider making batches of foods and freezing small portions that can be defrosted easily.
• If you work, you may need to get into the habit of taking foods to work with you.
• If eating out, call in advance to make the chef aware of your needs, and try to get to know the managers/chefs in favourite restaurants (this makes eating out much easier).
• Avoid fast food outlets and restaurants where food is not prepared on the premises.
• Teach your family and best friends about sulphites and how to cook for you so you can still socialise easily.
• Choose self-catering holidays and take your own food on planes and long journeys.
• Always read the label and if in doubt don’t eat it!
Avoid sulphited E numbers in the following foods
• Sausages (usually contain metabisulphite - an organic butcher may sell without MBS)
• Chips (unless they are homemade or you are sure they are made from freshly peeled potatoes)
• Sliced breads, crumpets and many baked goods (may contain vinegar or flours treated with sulphite)
• Ready made pizzas (dough may have been treated with a sulphite)
• Prawns/shrimp (usually frozen; fresh ones are also sulphited)
• Frozen seafood eg prawns, mussels etc
• Bottled lemon juice (nearly always sulphited)
• Pickles, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, horseradish sauce (unless homemade as it usually contains vinegar or bottled lemon juice)
• Dried fruits and candied peel or glace cherries (eg apricots, raisins, desic- cated coconut, bananas)
• Coconut milk (may be
sulphited so check the label)
• Dried mushrooms, onion, garlic
• Potato/corn starches (in most ready meals and low fat/diet products)
• Powdered ginger
• Stock cubes (unless all
ingredients are organic)
• Gelatine (in cakes, sweets, desserts etc)
• Glucose and other syrups, molasses (in desserts, ice creams etc)
• Fruit nectar drinks and yogurts or puddings
containing pectin or fruits (usually sulphited)
• Fruit squashes, soft drinks eg colas, lemonade or tonics containing a hint of lemon
• Beer/lager, cider and wine (SO2 is added to organic cider and most wines. White wine has a higher SO2 content than red.)
NB Beer/lager commonly has sulphites added as a preservative and some may be formed naturally during fermentation. Biodynamic wines use fewer chemicals in production and sulphites are avoided during the production process. I suggest that you contact the producer to check the content and opt for reds rather than whites.
• Vinegars with fresh lemon juice
• Bought dressings with cold pressed seed/nut oils or olive oil and fresh lemon juice
• Apricots/sultanas etc with non-sulphited organic ones
• Stock cubes, gravies with homemade or organic brands such as Kallo
• Frozen and dried foods with fresh
• Bought juices with freshly made juices or organic juices
Sulphite levels in imported foods (ppm SO2) Warner et al (1990)
Dried bamboo shoots 2100
Dried apple 750
Sweet coconut 375
Dried abalone 11000
Sun-dried tomatoes 800
High Sulphite level foods - Lester (1995)
Lemon juice (non-frozen)
Dried fruit (excluding dark raisins and prunes)
Moderate Sulphite level foods - 50-99.9 ppm SO2 - Lester (1995)
Low Sulphite level foods - 10-49.9 ppm SO2 - Lester (1995)
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