Label Decoder: Sulfites

If you’re a wine drinker, you’ve probably seen the word sulfite listed on most wine bottles. Find out why they’re used in most wines and if wine-lovers should find a new drink?
Related To:
147076661

147076661

White Wine Sangria

Photo by: gabe palmer

gabe palmer

If you’re a wine-drinker, you’ve probably seen the word "sulfite" listed on the bottles. Find out why they’re used in most wines, and which wine-lovers should be worried.

What is it?

Sulfites are also known as sulfur dioxide and sodium bisulfate (you’ll find these terms on the ingredient list). They help prevent discoloration of dried fruits, shrimp and processed potatoes. They also help prevent bacterial and yeast growth in wine which helps extend shelf life. It's also added to slow oxidation, which preserves flavor as wine ages.

Is it safe?

Mostly, yes, although one in every 100 people with asthma is sensitive to sulfites. The sensitivity can develop at any age, and can vary from itchy skin to not being able to breathe because their throats become constricted.

In 1986, the FDA required labels to list sulfites in foods that contained small amounts of the additive. This made it impossible for restaurants and supermarkets to treat fruits and veggies with sulfites (commonly used before 1986 to prevent browning of produce). This was great news for those with sulfite sensitivities.

If you’re sensitive, you’re best bet is to read the ingredients listed on the package. You’ll also want to avoid wines containing sulfites. Wines that are labeled “100 percent organic” or “USDA organic” don't have sulfites added; these would be an ideal choice for those with the sensitivity.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Keep Reading

Next Up

Label Decoder: Lecithin

You can find lecithin in food and in supplements, but what is it and is it good for you? Find out more about this added ingredient and how it’s used in the processing plant.

Label Decoder: Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is in a range of foods, from cheeses to jellies to carbonated beverages, but what does this preservative do and is it safe?

Label Decoder: Citric Acid

You’ll find citric acid in a variety of sweet foods like jams, gelatin desserts, candy, and ice cream. Luckily, it’s safe. Here’s some info on how it’s made and where it’s found.

Label Decoder: Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum's not hard to find when you're checking labels. Candy, puddings, ice cream, even cottage cheese -- it's all over grocery store shelves. Although it’s not the easiest word to pronounce, xanthan gum is one additive that you can chew on without worry.

Label Decoder: Cane Juice

Have you been reading your food labels lately? You may have seen the sweetener “cane juice” under the list of ingredients. But is it really better than sugar?

Label Decoder: High Maltose Corn Syrup

You've probably seen high maltose corn syrup listed on food labels before, even if you don't quite remember where. Did you know high maltose corn syrup is a close cousin to the infamous high fructose corn syrup ? Numerous questions are probably swirling in your head right now. Luckily, we'll tell you all about it. Read on to get the scoop (literally; it's found in ice cream).

12 Days of Holiday Gifts: Wine (in Festive Packaging)

When you give wine as a gift this year, make it extra special by wrapping in a simple, festive way.

5 Tips to Understanding Bubbly

Resist saving bubbly just for birthdays and ball drops and instead enjoy it throughout dinner. Part and parcel of upping your BCQ (Bubbly Consumption Quotient) is mastering these simple points.

Affordable Weeknight Wines — Outsmarting Wine

Here are three wine types that will enchant any night of the week and won't break the bank.

Enter for a Chance to Win a Zig Zag Wine Bottle Holder

Win a Zig Zag Wine Bottle Holder by Emilia Ceramics!