Practical tips for managing sulphite sensitivity, continued from Justine Bold's article.

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, desiccated 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)
• Jams
• 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

Extra Information

Table 3
Sulphite levels in imported foods (ppm SO2) Warner et al (1990)

Dried bamboo shoots 2100
Dried apple 750
Ginger 1900
Sweet coconut 375
Dried abalone 11000
Sun-dried tomatoes 800
Shrimp 600

Table 4
High Sulphite level foods - Lester (1995)

Lemon juice (non-frozen)
Dried fruit (excluding dark raisins and prunes)

Table 5
Moderate Sulphite level foods - 50-99.9 ppm SO2 - Lester (1995)

Dried potatoes
Grape juice
Wine vinegar
Gravies, sauces
Fruit topping
Maraschino cherries

Table 6
Low Sulphite level foods - 10-49.9 ppm SO2 - Lester (1995)

Shrimp (fresh)
Corn starch
Corn syrup
Frozen potatoes
Imported jams
and jellies
Maple syrup


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