Sulphites naturally occur in food and the human body. They are also regulated food additives used as preservatives to maintain food colour, prolong shelf-life, and prevent the growth of micro-organisms. Sulphites are used to bleach food starches (e.g. potato) and are also used in the production of some food packaging materials (e.g. cellophane).
The majority of consumers can, according to Health Canada, consume sulphites. Sulphite-sensitive people, many of whom also have asthma, may have a reaction with allergy-like symptoms. Even though sulphite sensitivity is not considered a true allergic reaction, sulphites can trigger asthma and symptoms of anaphylactic reaction.
Sulphites added to foods may go by many names including potassium bisulphite/metabisulphite, sodium bisulphite/dithionite/metabisulphite/sulphite, sulfur dioxide, sulphiting agents, sulphurous acid, and by European names E 220, E 221, E 222, E 223, E 224, E 225, E 226, E 227, E 228.
Some of the following foods are listed on Health Canada's site as possible sources of sulphites:
· Canned/frozen fruits and vegetables, e.g., mushrooms, sliced apples, olives, peas, peppers, pickles, pickled onions, tomatoes.
· Condiments, e.g., coleslaw, horseradish, ketchup, mustard, pickles, relish, sauerkraut.
· Deli meat, hot dogs, sausages.
· Dressings, gravies, guacamole, sauces, soups, soup mixes.
· Fruit filling, fruit syrup, gelatin, jams, jellies, marmalade, molasses, pectin.
· Glazed/glacéed fruits, e.g., apples, grapes, maraschino cherries.
· Processed potatoes, e.g., frozen french fries, dehydrated, mashed, peeled, pre-cut.
· Snack foods, e.g., candy, chocolate/fruit bars, tortilla/potato chips, soft drinks, trail mix.
· Starches, e.g., corn, potato, sugar beet; noodles, rice mixes.
· Sugar syrups, e.g., glucose, glucose solids, syrup dextrose.
To find out if a packaged food contains sulphites, check the list of ingredients. The list may include a name in the above mentioned list rather than "sulphites" Contacting the manufacturer is another option. President's Choice products, which have detailed ingredient labels, are a Montreal favourite. The PC Blue Menu Reduced Fat Shepherd's Pie label is a good example of what to look for. The manufacturer has responsibly and clearly indicated that the product contains sulphites:
FILLING: BEEF, CORN, ONIONS, BUTTER. TOPPING: POTATOES (CONTAIN SULPHITES), WHIPPING CREAM (MILK INGREDIENTS, CELLULOSE GEL, CAROB BEAN GUM, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, POLYSORBATE 80), BUTTER, SKIM MILK, DEXTROSE, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, SEA SALT, SPICE. SAUCE: WATER, ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR, BEEF BASE (BEEF, BEEF STOCK, SALT, POTATO FLOUR, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, SPICES, CARAMEL COLOUR, CORN OIL), POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, SEA SALT, FLAVOUR (CONTAINS SALT, CANOLA OIL), SALT, DEXTROSE, SPICE, CARAMEL COLOUR, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER.
Please note that product ingredients and product information may occasionally change from the above. Kindly refer to actual product labelling.
For those who are sulphite-sensitive, there are a number of recipes on the internet and in cookbooks. Preparing many small Shepherd's Pies, for example, and freezing them is easy, affordable and convenient. Ingredients can vary from one pie to another. Herbs, spices, chile pepper, sweet potato, cheese, vegan are all tasty options, and the chef can assert that no preservatives or artificial colours were used.
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