“Contains Sulfites.” With the initiation of that federally managed warning label in 1988, wine drinkers began to worry. What were sulfites and why were they suddenly being put into wine? In the confusion that followed, wine was blamed for everything from headaches to rashes.
The facts are these: Wine has always contained sulfites. The compounds occur as a natural by-product of fermentation. Historically, winemakers have also added small, controlled amounts of sulfites to wine to prevent oxidation and spoilage.
Widespread concern over sulfites first occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the dawning of the salad bar. Cut vegetables and fruits were routinely sprayed with large amounts of sulfites (up to 2,000 parts per million-ppm) to keep them from wilting and turning brown. The FDA reports of cases of adverse reactions from several hundred people. In response, strict regulations were enacted to protect the estimated 0.4 to 0.8 percent of the population, most of them severe asthmatics, considered at risk.
In addition to wine, sulfites are found in beer, cocktail mixes, cookies, crackers, pizza crust, flour tortillas, pickles, relishes, salad dressings, olives, vinegar, sugar, shrimp, scallops, dried fruit, and fruit juice, among other food and beverages.