Top 14 – Sulphur Dioxide – Sulphite Allergy

This allergy makes the Food Standards Agency list of top 14 allergens which needs to be monitored, assessed and declared in food packaging and restaurants in the United Kingdom.

Sulphites (or sulfites as they are known in most other countries) are different from other allergens in the top 14 as they are inorganic salts with preservative properties rather than food proteins.  Allergy UK estimates that this allergy only affects 2% of the population, but that this can rise in asthmatics up to 13%.  As this is not usually a classic IgE allergy the symptoms are usually either from contact in the form of rashes or from asthma symptoms.

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Sufferers may find that they are able to tolerate a low sulphite diet rather than avoiding completely, but it is still important to read labels and be aware of foods which naturally contain sulphites.

Diagnosis

It has been suggested that the best way to diagnose this allergy is through oral challenge, but it is unlikely that this will be undertaken in the UK.  It could be potentially dangerous to patients with a history of severe asthma.

Blood tests are generally unreliable in allergy diagnosis and as sulphite allergy is rarely IgE this is not recommended.  There has been some small scale success with skin prick testing for sulphite sensitivity which is safer.  As with most allergies it is recommended that elimination diets and avoidance are the safest, quickest and cheapest course of action.

Look out for labels…

Preservatives

E220 Sulphur dioxide
E221 Sodium sulphite
E222 Sodium hydrogen sulphite
E223 Sodium metabisulphite
E224 Potassium metabisulphite
E226 Calcium sulphite
E227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite
E228 Potassium hydrogen sulphite
E150b Caustic sulphite caramel
E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel

Food

  • Dried fruit
  • Jams and Preserves
  • Bottled Sauces
  • Peeled or dehydrated potatoes
  • Pickled Food
  • Gravies
  • Gelatin
  • Naturally occurring in onions and garlic

Drink

  • Cider
  • Wine
  • Tea
  • Fruit Juices

Prescription Drugs/Anaesthetics

  • Epinephrine
  • Local Anaesthetics
  • Eye Drops

Cosmetics

  • Bleach
  • Hair Dyes
  • Fake Tan products
  • Skin lighteners

If you think you suffer from any of these allergies you should seek medical advice from your GP, allergist or dietician

Further Reading

Allergy UK Factsheet on Sulphites

Contact allergy to sodium sulfite and its relationship to sodium metabisulfite, 2012

Considerations for the diagnosis and management of sulphite sensitivity, 2012

Sulfites, The MAK Collection for Occupational Health and Safety, online 2014

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2 Responses to Top 14 – Sulphur Dioxide – Sulphite Allergy

  1. Auntie Jems says:

    Thanks for the reblog!

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