SULFITES (ack!) – that deadly monster-chemical lurking in our wine, causing trouble and spurring headaches! Right?!
Well, not necessarily. The mandatory mention on the label does make sulfites out to be some sort of terrifying substance, but for most people sulfites are completely harmless.
Trace amounts of sulfites (sulphur-based compounds) are naturally occurring by-products of the fermentation process – even in organic wines. It is true, small amounts of sulphur may be added to the wine to ward off bacteria and help keep it stable over time, particulately white wine (Yep! Not a typo). The US is the only country that requires mention on the label when that amount is more that 10 parts per million.
But wine bottles are not the only thing in our kitchens containing sulfites. Other edibles include tea, fruit and vegetable juice, dried fruit, jam, soup mixes, baked goods, frozen pizza, soda, and seafood – and often in much much larger quantities than in wine. Wha…?!
Sulfite allergies can be very serious, and include wheezing and chest tightness. Luckily, the FDA estimates only 1 in 100 people have a sensitivity to sulfites. Though sensitivity is more likely among those who suffer from asthma. [webmd.com; theasthmacenter.org]
So, what’s with my headaches? Turns out, those headaches are more likely the result of histamines, tannins, or alcohol content. Aw…nuts.