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.
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.
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…
|E222||Sodium hydrogen sulphite|
|E227||Calcium hydrogen sulphite|
|E228||Potassium hydrogen sulphite|
|E150b||Caustic sulphite caramel|
|E150d||Sulphite ammonia caramel|
- Dried fruit
- Jams and Preserves
- Bottled Sauces
- Peeled or dehydrated potatoes
- Pickled Food
- Naturally occurring in onions and garlic
- Fruit Juices
- Local Anaesthetics
- Eye Drops
- 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