A look at sulphur dioxide and sulphites

Allergens are defined as any substance – often a protein – that induces an allergy. Reactions to allergens can range from minor discomfort, such as a rash or hives, all the way through to anaphylactic shock and death. Dr Mike Jordan, of Premier Analytical Services, explains.


ALLERGEN: Dried fruits and vegetables routinely report the highest levels of sulphites

Since the tightening of certain allergen levels and labelling listed in Annex II to an EU Regulation about food allergy information provided to consumers (as amended by Commission Delegated Regulation No 78/2014),1 the industry has adopted a new focus: operating accurate testing regimes, minimising the chance of cross contamination in production or with ingredients and ensuring traceability of materials. While some of the allergens have created whole new markets, such as gluten-free, some remain relatively unknown – one such example being that of sulphur dioxide and/ or sulphites.

Sulphur dioxides and sulphites (E220 – E228) are chemical compounds that can be naturally occurring (sulphur dioxide is present in wine or beer, for example) and are most commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of foods. They are used to extend the shelf life of products, as well as to kill bacteria, and are popular due to their ability to maintain product colour and have a softening effect – particularly useful in the dried fruit market. Dried fruits and vegetables routinely report the highest levels of sulphites, due to their preservative abilities, while maintaining colour and texture. This makes them especially popular in lighter coloured fruits and vegetables that risk turning brown.

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