Beginning in 2012, Health Canada announced mandatory labelling of sulphites that are present in foods in amounts greater than 10 parts per million (ppm)1. The reason for this labelling requirement is that sulphites are one of ten priority allergens recognized by Health Canada2, all of which are required to be stated clearly on an ingredient list when present in packaged foods or beverages.
Sulphites are Sulphur-based substances that occur naturally in some foods and are sometimes used as an additive or preservative for processed foods. They can also occur naturally in the fermentation process of foods/beverages like wine and beer2.
Sulphites have recently gained attention as an additive, potentially because they are now clearly labelled on food and beverage products that contain them3. While the general public has expressed concern about sulphites in wine and in other food/beverage sources, they are in fact not harmful when consumed by the general population. For a person with sulphite sensitivity, it is necessary to avoid foods and beverages that have sulphites added to them.
Do Sulphites Affect Wine?
Wine is known for its phytochemical content and potential for antioxidant activity. A recent study compared organic wines produced without sulfur dioxide or added sulphites to conventionally produced red wines. Researchers found that the organic, sulphite-free wine and the conventional winde did not have significant differences in phytochemical content (flavonoids and polyphenols), or antioxidant activity. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that sulphites in wine affect their antioxidant capacity.
The Bottom Line
If you have a diagnosed sulphite sensitivity, it’s a good idea to avoid wine and other foods with added sulphites. Otherwise, sulphites do not change the properties of wine significantly and should not be a concern for the general population.
1 Valley H, Misso NLA. Adverse reactions to sulphite additives. Gastroenterology and hepatology from bed to bench 2012;5:1 16-23.
1Government of Canada. Vintage wine and application of enhanced allergen regulations. Health Canada. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/vintage-wine-vin-millesimes-eng.php on Feb. 23, 2016
2Government of Canada. Sulphites: One of the ten priority food allergens. Health Canada. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/pubs/securit/2012-allergen_sulphites-sulfites/2012-allergen_sulphites-sulfites-eng.pdf on Feb. 19, 2016
3Null, Christopher. (June 28, 2015). Wine sulphites are fine, but here’s how to remove them anyway. Wired.com ©Conde Nast. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2015/06/wine-sulfites-fine-heres-remove-anyway/ on Feb. 23, 2016.
4Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The use of sulphites in fresh produce. Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables/food-safety/protective-coating-treatments/eng/1374507231966/1374507410404 on Feb. 23, 2016.
5Garaguso I & Nardini M. Polyphenols content, phenolics profile and antioxidant activity of organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition in comparison to conventional red wines. Food Chemistry 2015;179: 336 – 342.
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