Living Sulfite-Free - Is It Possible?
What's Happening to Me?
That's the question more and more of us are asking these days. That's the question my husband, Gerald, asked about three years ago. Strange things started happening to him that had never happened before. Maybe they're happening to you, too.
They tell us that only 1 percent of people in the U.S. have this problem, but I wonder . . . and even if it's true, that's a lot of people!
DISCLAIMER: The information on this site contains our personal experiences with sulfite sensitivity. It should not be viewed as an authoritative source of information on the subject. Although we continue to work hard to make sure our statements are accurate, we are by no means experts. PLEASE do your own research to make sure you are as safe as possible!
(Photo courtesy of CarbonNYC thru http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)
It was a simple glass of white wine . . .
We were out with good friends, enjoying a theater experience - Charlie Chaplin silent films accompanied by a talented musician who sat playing a gigantic organ. We sat in a huge banquet room. The company was great, the food was delicious, and our white wine was chilled to perfection. Gerald took a sip along with his meal. Strange . . . my lips are tingling, he thought. My face is feeling flushed. My tongue's a little numb.
He waited, and gradually those feelings subsided. Another sip, and the symptoms returned. This is strange. I've never felt this before. Could those sulfites they always warn about on wine bottles be affecting me like this?
Maybe it's not just the wine . . .
We're not big wine drinkers, so it was a few months before Gerald drank wine again. We each had a glass of wine with dinner, and the same things happened to him - only worse. His lips felt swollen and numb and his face became more flushed. He started to wheeze.
Strangely, he said that the symptoms had started to a degree even before he drank the wine. What had you eaten before? I asked him. He had been at my brother's house, where he had eaten some tuna and some flour tortillas. It sounded safe enough. Confusing.
As usual, I jumped on the internet to learn what I could about sulfites. I learned that many flour tortillas have something in them called sodium metabisulfite. Wow. This definitely sounded like a problem. It wasn't just a problem that could be solved by avoiding wine. He had to avoid those tortillas, too.
"But I LOVE tortillas!"
Don't worry . . . be happy! (Read the end to find good news about the price!)
I can't tell you how discouraged we were when we couldn't find a flour tortilla without sulfites. I even tried making them myself - what a disaster! One day I was bemoaning my plight to a friend of mine who happens to be a chef. He asked me if we had tried the UNCOOKED Tortilla Land flour tortillas sold in the refrigerated section of our local Costco. These tortillas don't have to sit on a shelf for who knows how long, being preserved by things like sodium metabisulfite.
Let me tell you, the next time I went to Costco, I headed straight for those Tortilla Land tortillas and analyzed the ingredient list. SAFE! I could hardly wait to try them.
This is how I cook them: Heat a frying pan (no oil needed), place a tortilla in for about 30 seconds, and wait for the tortillas to start to bubble up. Turn it over and you'll see those nice little brown circles of doneness. Cook for just another few seconds, and you're done! Quick and easy! And how do they taste? Ooohhh! . . . tortilla heaven. Like your own abuelita would have made.
If Gerald hadn't become sulfite-sensitive, I doubt if I ever would have tried these. Now I can't imagine buying anything else.
IMPORTANT NOTE: These used to be carried at Amazon. Now Amazon carries a comparable and equally delicious product called Tortilla Fresca Uncooked Flour Tortillas. I ordered them from Amazon to try them out. Packed with something to keep them cold during transport, they arrived in great condition and were delicious! I thought maybe the previous brand wasn't being made any more.
Imagine my surprise when I visited Costco and found the original product still in their refrigerated case - and at about half of Amazon's price! Just a little heads-up for you price-conscious shoppers! ;)
We had to become detectives . . .
Gerald's allergist gave him a comprehensive skin test to determine what he was allergic to. Test results? He wasn't allergic to ANYTHING. The doctor explained that there is no such thing as a sulfite allergy - only a sulfite sensitivity. Nor is there a specific test for sulfite sensitivity. It was something the patient had to figure out for himself, mostly by tracking one's reactions to foods.
The doctor gave us a list of foods that could cause Gerald problems. That and my internet search revealed many things that were eye-opening. I learned that there was a vast array of food that "everybody" eats without adverse reactions - but that Gerald dare not touch.
Here's what we learned . . .
We came up with a fairly comprehensive list of foods that MAY contain sulfites. Not all manufacturers use sulfites in these products. Remember to check each label.
- Baked Goods: Bread; cookies; crackers; mixes containing dried fruits or vegetables; pie crust; pizza crust; quiche crust; flour tortillas
- Beverages: Wine; wine coolers; beer; cocktail mixes; dried citrus fruit beverage mixes; instant tea; liquid tea concentrates
- Condiments and Relishes: Horseradish; relishes; pickles; olives; salad dressings; salad dressing mixes; wine vinegar
- Dairy (and Non-Dairy) Products: Filled milk (specially prepared skim milk with added vegetable oils to increase its fat content); non-dairy coffee creamers; sour cream; yogurt
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Sulfite use banned in the U.S. (except for prepared raw potatoes - for example, uncooked frozen french fries or hash browns)
- Gelatins: Puddings and Fillings: Fruit fillings; gelatin; pectin jelling agents
- Grain Products and Pastas: Cornstarch; modified food starch; spinach pasta; gravies; hominy; breadings; batters; noodle mixes; rice mixes
- Jams and Jellies: Jams and jellies
- Nuts and Nut Products: Shredded coconut
- Processed Fruits: Canned, bottled or frozen fruit juices; dried fruit; canned, bottled or frozen dietetic fruit or fruit juices; maraschino cherries; glazed fruit
- Processed Vegetables: Vegetable juice; canned vegetables (including potatoes); pickled vegetables (including sauerkraut); dried vegetables; instant mashed potatoes; frozen potatoes; potato salad, onion powder, garlic powder
- Seafood: Canned clams; fresh, frozen, canned or dried shrimp; frozen lobster; scallops; dried cod.
- Snack Foods: Dried fruit snacks; trail mixes; filled crackers
- Soups: Canned soups; dried soup mixes
- Sweet Toppings: Corn syrup; high fructose corn syrup; maple syrup; pancake syrup; fruit toppings
- Meats: Bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs
Which of these contain Sulfites? - All of them. Look below the picture to find out why.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Oh, no! What next?
Grocery shopping became an intensive research project, every single time. I got so that I didn't even want to go grocery shopping, because it was such a lot of work, reading every single label on every single product. But if it kept my husband safe, it was worth it. So I pressed on.
One night shortly after dinner, Gerald's throat started to close and he began wheezing loudly. We panicked, terrified. We called our medical help line and talked to a nurse. She said we should see a doctor as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I needed to buy some Benadryl quickly. I raced to the store and back, and Gerald took the Benadryl. Shortly thereafter, he breathed easier and got very sleepy (a side effect of Benadryl).
Why? I asked myself again and again. I had been so careful. Dinner had been simple - no chance of sulfites that I was aware of... plain vegetables, macaroni and cheese - made only with macaroni and shredded cheese. Simple. Suddenly I thought about that cheese. I raced to the garbage can, where I had tossed the empty bag of store brand shredded cheese. Ingredients: shredded cheddar cheese, modified food starch to prevent caking. What???
Modified food starch - it doesn't specify which food starch is used, but a lot of the time it's cornstarch.
The Corn Connection
I wanted to use a BIG picture, because the corn connection to sulfite sensitivity is HUGE.
We love corn, and neither of us has any problem eating it. But when we researched how corn is treated to produce other products, were were amazed.
One of the most enlightening sources of information was from the International Starch Institute, on how corn starch is made. After the corn is cleaned, it is steeped in hot water to release the starch. The Institute explains: "The steeping is actually a controlled fermentation. Sulphur dioxide improves the fermentation by enhancing growth of favourable micro-organisms . . . The sulphur dioxide may be prepared by burning sulphur and absorbing the gas in water. Because modern processes call for more strict and narrow dosage, a supply of sulphur dioxide gas under pressure is preferred or SO2 is replaced by sodium hydrogen bisulphite where no local gas supply is available." (Bold print is mine.)
Sulphur gases are used in the production of corn starch! In the same process, part of the continuing process extracts corn oil from the corn germ. Residual extracted corn germ meal is used for animal feeds. Corn starch itself is converted into corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.
Sooooo . . . try buying food that has no corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or modified food starch! It's pretty challenging! But necessary, since Gerald seemed to be reacting to all of these.
Sulfite sensitivity can cause many different reactions and in varying degrees. Since the sulfites were giving Gerald serious asthmatic reactions, his doctor provided him with an albuterol inhaler and an Epi-Pen - one for him and one for me, in case Gerald couldn't give himself a shot because of passing out or something. He also recommended that Gerald get a Medical Alert bracelet stating that he was sensitive to sulfites. Scary stuff. (Interesting side note: The Epi-Pen medicine contains . . . are you ready? Sulfites! But apparently the benefits outweigh the risks, especially if it will open a throat that is so swollen you can't breathe! The instructions are for him to use the Epi-Pen and then go immediately to a hospital emergency room. Did I say scary stuff?)
Gerald is by no means an isolated case. Click on this link to find out what happened to 37-year-old Karen just from eating french fries..
What's Your Opinion About Sulfite Labeling?
Do you think all food should be required to clearly label added sulfites?
Yes - it would simplify my life.
Worldwide, people are facing the same challenge.
I was very impressed with these reports from Australia.
Watch out for these ingredients! - Commonly-used sulfites and their E numbers
In Europe and other parts of the world, E numbers on packaging identify sulphites in food. In the US, the chemical names are used. Become familiar with the designation in your part of the world, so that you can avoid them.
- E150b Caustic sulphite caramel
- E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel
- E220 Sulfur dioxide
- E221 Sodium sulphite
- E222 Sodium bisulphite (sodium hydrogen sulphite)
- E223 Sodium metabisulphite
- E224 Potassium metabisulphite
- E225 Potassium sulphite
- E226 Calcium sulphite
- E227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite (preservative)
- E228 Potassium hydrogen sulphite
Sulfite or Sulphite?
Sulphites and sulfites are exactly the same thing. :) In the US, the English spelling "sulfite" is used; in other English-speaking parts of the world, the spelling "sulphite" is often used.
Since coffee is arguably the world's favorite beverage, this is something you will want to know!
One of my wonderful readers asked me this seemingly simple question: Are there sulfites in coffee? I found out the answer wasn't so simple. I'm hoping that this flowchart will help simplify a complicated answer.
These Coffee Filters Were NOT Bleached With Sulfites
If you hop on over to AMAZON, you will see that they carry dozens of unbleached coffee filters for all different coffee makers - lots to choose from!
Feeling more than a little overwhelmed?
We absolutely understand.
Oh, my goodness, you say. This is too much, too hard. I am absolutely overwhelmed.
We understand. We've been there, done that - and that's why we've created this lens. So you won't have as hard a time as we did.
First, let us help you be informed - information is power. We've got some web sites to help you. The first was written by a woman with a long history of sulfite sensitivity. She explains her personal experience and her belief that you can find a substitute for any sulfited product, if you look long and hard enough. She has really good suggestions for you. She can help you understand it, she can help you handle this.
There's another woman who, like me, has a sulfite-sensitive husband. She's really done her homework from a scientific viewpoint.
Last, we'll show you the web site that helped us understand the whole issue the best. This site uses humor, intelligence, and science to teach you about a very complicated problem. We learned so much from this author! His e-book about the subject is absolutely free to download. We printed it and read it a little at a time to give us time to digest and discuss it at our own pace.
But What CAN I Eat???
The good news is, you can eat many of the foods you ate before - you just have to look a little harder to find what you need. But I'm giving you a secret weapon that will save you from hours on your feet reading labels in the grocery store. It's a link to a wonderful site called foodfacts.com. You can look up so many, many grocery items, and the site provides you with all the nutritional information, including every ingredient found in the product.
For example, say you would like to have pork sausage links for breakfast. In the search box at the top of the page, type in sausage. A list of popular sausages will appear. Under each is the little blue word "Ingredients." When you click the word, the ingredients appear. Let's pick three and compare them. Which of the following sausages should a sulfite sensitive individual pick?
a. Johnsonville Breakfast Pork Sausage:
Ingredients: Pork, Water, Salt, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Lemon Juice Powder (Corn Syrup Solids, Lemon Juice Solids, Lemon Oil), Monosodium Glutamate, Flavoring, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Citric Acid
b. Organic Valley Organic Italian Pork Sausage:
Ingredients: Pork (Organic), Water, Salt Sea, Milk Non-Fat Dry (Organic), Cane Sugar (Organic), Spice(s) (Organic), Garlic Powder (Organic), Rosemary Extract, Celery Seed Extract, Pork Casing Natural
c. Jimmy Dean Original Fresh Pork Sausage Links:
Ingredients: Pork, Water, Salt, Sugar, Spice(s), Corn Syrup, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice(s) Extractive, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid
If you picked "b," you're right.
Both "a" and "c" contain Citric Acid, which uses sulfites in its production. "A" has both corn syrup and corn syrup solids; "c" has corn syrup.
Did you notice that "b" is sweetened with organic cane sugar? This is important. Beet sugar is whitened with sulfur dioxide. Only buy cane sugar, which is low in naturally occurring sulfites. The only possible problem I see is that "b" contains organic garlic powder. Many garlic powders are treated with sulfites to keep their color light. You still will have to do a little cautious trial and error to determine how YOU react to individual products.
NEW! Sulfite-Sensitive Shopper's Guide
Handy wallet card just for you!
The hardest thing for me was during my actual shopping. I would be staring at a long list of ingredients, and for the life of me I could not remember if there were sulfites in some of them. It's complicated!
With that in mind, I designed a card to help me when I shop, to make life a little less complicated. I'm sharing it with all of you.
The cards come in packages of 100. That seems like a lot, but it really isn't. First, carry one in your wallet. Put some in your glove compartment. Put one in each of your purses. Give them freely to everyone in your family and to all of your friends. Explain that this will help them to help YOU to be safe. Share them with chefs in your favorite restaurants. Remember, this is a problem you will likely be dealing with for the rest of your life, so these cards will be a tremendous help to you for years to come.
In Praise of Whole Foods Market
You can find products that you can eat at the local supermarket. I won't kid you - it's a lot of work, and you CAN do it successfully. But Whole Foods Market is like an oasis in the desert. I don't think there's a single product in the vast store that has high fructose corn syrup. The gigantic produce department is all organic, and not one piece of dehydrated fruit there has been treated with sulfites. I go there, and I love shopping again. I sincerely hope there's a Whole Foods Market near you.
As time goes on, I'll try to list some products that we enjoy that are safe for Gerald to eat, products that you might be able to find at your local grocery store. :)
Feeling our way . . .
I promised to give you a list of some foods that Gerald can eat without reactions so far. This can change at any time.
I hope this list will help you or your sulfite-sensitive friends. Some of these are in the form of a link to Amazon. Next to some of these "acceptable" foods, I will mention related items that we have discovered that Gerald can eat, as well as warnings for you to heed.
Keep in mind that the same foods are not safe for all people; each person has his/her own level of sensitivity. And those levels can change. Hopefully, this list will be a good place for you to start. I wish you all the best!
Photo courtesy of bark and Creative Commons 2.0.
1. Baked Goods
BREADS:There are more and more breads available now that are relatively safe. Look for Mestemacher Pumpernickel, Open Nature Breads, Dave's Killer Breads, etc. Look for breads that say "No Preservatives." Read bread labels carefully, watching out for dangerous ingredients like corn syrup, cornstarch, modified food starch, and so forth.
COOKIES: Technically not a cookie, my cookie-loving husband loves his Clif Energy Bars. The only thing he loves more is my home-made cookies! (Go ahead and bake! YOU control the ingredients that way, and they are so much more delicious than store-bought!)
CRACKERS: Most crackers have cornstarch in them, but these woven salty treats are just fine! Just be sure that you buy the Triscuit Original flavor - some of the others have unacceptable ingredients.
WATER! It's the best thing you can drink, except that bottled water can contain sulfites. And not all bottled waters are created equal, at least where sulfites are concerned. Those with the least discernible amounts are Aquafina, Poland Springs, Crystal Springs, and Ozarka.
V8 Juice (Original): I haven't been able to learn if V8 uses any dehydrated vegetables, so drink with caution. This is one of Gerald's absolute favorites, and he has never had a bad reaction to it. It also gives him a full serving of vegetables in every serving, along with the benefits they contain.
SODA: Soda is a very hard item to shop for - you must avoid anything with corn syrup in it, and most sodas are loaded with it. Look for a drink that is sweetened with CANE SUGAR, like Hansen's or Sierra Mist Natural. (There's a small amount of naturally occurring sulfites in cane sugar; beet sugar is treated with sulfites.) One other warning: avoid brown-colored sodas. They contain caramel color, another sulfite culprit.
3. Condiments and Relishes
VINEGAR: Although some vinegars contain sulfites, rice vinegar is a good choice. :)
KETCHUP: My husband LOVES ketchup. The safest one we have found so far is Heinz Organic Ketchup. However, be warned that it does contain organic onion powder (no guarantee that it hasn't been sulfited) and Natural Flavors (which CAN contain dehydrated onion and/or garlic).
MAYONNAISE: Hellmann's and Best Foods are identical products. So far, no bad reactions from this mayonnaise. Be careful, though. It does, however, contain vinegar (What kind? Vinegar made from grapes is sulfited.), and Natural Flavors (which CAN contain dehydrated onion and/or garlic).
RELISH: This relish has been good so far. Be warned, though - it does contain dehydrated red peppers and Natural Flavoring (which CAN contain dehydrated onion and/or garlic).
Sweet relish very often contains corn syrup. Those that contain sugar will still contain vinegar. (There are sulfites in wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar, so be cautious.)
4. Dairy (and Non-Dairy) Products
Amazon doesn't sell a lot of dairy products online, for understandable reasons. :) So let me give you a basic rundown on dairy products that can be safe to eat.
CHEESE: All cheeses contain low levels of sulfite created naturally during the aging process. Each person must determine whether or not certain levels of cheese give them reactions. Gerald seems to be able to tolerate small amounts of mild cheese, UNLESS it is pre-shredded and packaged. Practically anything added to the shredded cheese to keep it from clumping together will cause a problem. So if you're going to try to eat cheese, take an extra couple of minutes and grate it yourself. :)
SOUR CREAM: Like cheese, sour cream contains low levels of sulfite created naturally during the aging process. These do not bother Gerald, as long as the sour cream is a brand with no added ingredients. We like DAISY brand, which contains only milk and cream.
YOGURT: Plain yogurt is free of sulfites unless corn starch and gelatin are added. Beware of flavored yogurts containing corn syrup or other dangerous sweeteners.
CREAM CHEESE: Cream cheese contains low levels of sulfite created naturally. Watch out, too, for added ingredients in flavored cream cheeses like onion and garlic powder, which could cause problems.
EGGS: Eggs naturally contain some sulfur. Although this bothers many people, so far Gerald is able to eat eggs with no problems.
5. Fruits and Vegetables
Remember that, at least in the United States, it is illegal for grocery stores to sell fresh produce that has been treated with sulfites. That's where your safest source of fruits and vegetables can be found.
Safe produce can also be found in the frozen food department, with the exception of frozen potatoes. Because potatoes so quickly turn brown, people are allowed to use sulfites on frozen french fries, frozen hash browns, etc. to keep them white. So be very careful!
FRUIT: It's pretty hard to find canned fruit that you can eat, because 99% of them are canned using corn syrup. Find fruit that is canned using fruit juice or sugar. Or can your own fresh fruit! Mmmm....
VEGETABLES: It's pretty easy to find canned corn that has no corn syrup. But watch out for creamed corn, because it contains modified corn starch or modified food starch, two very dangerous ingredients for the sulfite-sensitive.
The e-book Headaches, Asthma, Fries and a Cola says this about sulfites and gelatin: "Gelatin is pure protein processed to promote the gelling of liquids. In other words, Jell-O. Most of the gelatin produced in the United States is made from pigskin, although cattle hide and bones are also used. The first step in making gelatin is a softening soak in sulfur dioxide and water. Why are we not surprised? Gelatin is used in many foods to build body and improve texture. Lowfat yogurts use lots of gelatin to make up for the missing milkfat. . . . An alternative to gelatin is fruit pectin. In the past, some forms of pectin were preserved with sulfites; however, today all forms are sulfite free."
Today, all forms of fruit pectin are sulfite free. So go ahead and create some delicious home-made jams and jellies using fresh fruit and pure cane sugar. :)
7. Grain Products and Pasta
Plain pasta is seldom a problem, but pasta sauce is. Besides the commonly included dehydrated onion and garlic, some contain cornstarch, modified food starch, modified corn starch, and so on. This is especially true in things like Alfredo or cheese sauces.
SPAGHETTI SAUCE: Barilla makes some of the only pasta sauces I've found that are safe for Gerald to eat - and their sauces are delicious! (But be sure to read labels - I haven't checked all of them out yet!)
8. Jams and Jellies
You wouldn't think it would be so hard to find jam made with sugar, would you? After all, when I was little and my mom made her own jam, she wouldn't have imagined she should make it with corn syrup! Look for jams and jellies made with SUGAR! (There's a small amount of naturally occurring sulfites in cane sugar; beet sugar is treated with sulfites.)
JAMS AND JELLIES: Hint: When looking for jams and jellies, you'll have the most success if you look for organic jams and jellies. Generally, they won't have preservatives in them, and are sweetened with sugar. (Be sure it's cane sugar - remember, beet sugar is treated with sulfites.)
9. Nuts, Nut Products, and Coconut
WATCH OUT FOR PEANUTS! They have some naturally occurring sulfites in them. The good news? The rest of the nuts are safe, as long as you are eating plain nuts without added sweeteners, etc. Read your labels!
COCONUT: There is a small amount of naturally-occurring sulfites in coconut. Most shredded coconut is sulfited to keep it white, but this product isn't. If you want to try to eat un-sulfited shredded coconut, please do it carefully.
10. Processed Fruit - Buy only fruit packed in its own or other fruit juices. Nothing else added. That's the safest. :)
Be careful - most processed fruit is sweetened with corn syrup - and fruit pie fillings are loaded with cornstarch.
PROCESSED FRUIT: Ingredients: blueberries, water, sugar. Beautiful! Beware of canned pie fillings, which are full of cornstarch to thicken them. If you want to thicken blueberries for pie, check your cookbook for how to thicken it with flour. I wish this product specified "cane sugar" - there's a small amount of naturally occurring sulfites in cane sugar, but beet sugar is sulfited to whiten it. When it just says "sugar," there's no way to know for sure which it is.
11. Processed Vegetables
CHILI: Be especially careful about food starches and cornstarch in canned chili. Gerald really enjoys Amy's Organic Chili.
I was surprised to learn how many brands of garbanzo beans (chick peas) use sulfites to keep their beans white. Eden's beans have no sulfites, and in addition to being high in fiber, they are low in sodium. Nice.
PROCESSED VEGETABLES: It's surprising how hard it can be to find canned tomatoes that are safe for those who are sulfite-sensitive. Another good one is 365 Organic Diced Tomatoes from Whole Foods.
The e-book Headaches, Asthma, Fries and a Cola explains the many forms of sulfur preservatives and discusses the problems they can cause. It says this about seafood: "Sulfites are a preservative for fish. Theoretically, sulfited fish must carry a warning somewhere near the fish display, but I've never seen one. And, a sulfited fish has bitten me more than a few times, especially salmon. Whether declared or not, shrimp are almost always preserved with sulfites to prevent a black spotting fungus. Restaurants can further complicate matters by deep frying shrimp in a common vat with vegetables. The shrimp sulfites leak into the oil and contaminate the otherwise clean vegetables."
SEAFOOD: Canned tuna is sulfite-free. :)
13. Snack Foods
POPCORN: Gerald is the original Popcorn Monster. He LOVES it! And he doesn't have to give it up because of sulfites. I'm so happy! We never buy microwave popcorn - we always use the air popper. Salt is our seasoning of choice - many fancier seasonings contain dehydrated onion and garlic.
SNACK FOODS: Corn, oil, and salt. Good snack. Un"flavored" tortilla chips are a great snack that you can find most anywhere.
But I have to make Gerald's dip at home - so far he reacts to every store-bought salsa.
This is one of the very few soups I would serve Gerald. It's much safer to make my own. Store-bought soups nearly always have dehydrated onion and/or garlic in them, as well as malto-dextrin, modified food starch, modified corn starch, and so on. Most store-bought soups will hurt my husband - mine will actually be good for him!
15. Sweet Toppings
You can safely enjoy honey and UNSULPHURED molasses. You can also enjoy pure maple syrup. (There's a tiny bit of naturally-occurring sulfites there, but not enough to bother most people.)
WATCH OUT, though, for MAPLE-FLAVORED SYRUP - it is nothing but corn syrup and some maple flavoring.
The e-book Headache, Asthma, Fries and a Cola says the following about sulfites and meat: "Sulfites are not allowed on red meat. Sodium bisulfite does such a good job of color fixing, that sulfited ground beef can be rotten and you can't tell by looking at it. For this reason, the FDA has an absolute prohibition against sulfites in meat. However, the rule doesn't apply to other ingredients that may be mixed into the meat. For instance, sausage may legally contain corn syrup, molasses, or wine."
That's why we really appreciate Safeway's new Open Nature brand. The Safeway web site carries this information:
"The OPEN NATURE promise:
* We believe ingredients should come from nature.
* We believe food should be made only with ingredients we are proud to share.
* We believe food should be simply prepared, the way you'd make it at home.
* We believe food should be made with a commitment to quality."
They keep that promise. And that's why we buy most of our bacon, hot dogs, and sausage at Safeway. These products are not only sulfite-free, they are also nitrate- and nitrite-free.
MEATS: Although we don't know exactly what they mean by "evaporated apples" and we don't know exactly what spices are included, we do know that Gerald has been able to eat these. (Please check ingredients carefully, because not all Aidells sausages are created alike.)
Something we like equally well are the Open Nature sausages available in Safeway. No sulfited ingredients, and no nitrates or nitrites. Just deliciousness. (Is that a word?)
What do you mean, there's MORE???
There's always more. Why? Because we're always learning. As I learn more about sulfite-containing products, I will post them HERE.
11/10/2011: Gerald loves to chew gum. But most gums contain some kind of corn sweetener. I was delighted to discover SPRY, a gum sweetened with the healthful sweetener called xylitol. We got the Green Tea flavor, because Gerald loves green tea. Terrific. Except that every time he chewed it, he got a reaction - long-term coughing and wheezing. A little research on the innocent-sounding ingredient VEGETABLE GLYCERIN yielded this information from eHow.com:
"Some vegetable glycerin products contain preservatives that are added to extend their shelf lives. Sulfite preservatives (compounds of oxygen and sulfur in combination with sodium sulfite or potassium sulfite) are popularly used to maintain the freshness of vegetable glycerin products, including soaps, shampoos and lotions. They produce asthma-like allergic reactions in allergy-prone individuals, the symptoms of which include itching, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, shortness of breath and hives."
Read more: Vegetable Glycerin Dangers | eHow.com
This is a complex issue, and one that isn't easy to thoroughly cover in a Squidoo lens. But I have done extensive research, and if you have a question, there's a chance I'll have the answer. I'll do my best to answer or at least try to point you in the right direction to find those answers, okay?
Does living sulfite-free mean NO wine, ever?
It all depends. If you are VERY sensitive, maybe you will give up wine altogether. But if your sensitivity is not as great as Gerald's, pay close attention to this lesson on finding wine that you can drink. I warn you, it's a challenging proposition!
(Note: This video states that drinking beer is safe for people with sulfite sensitivity. This is not always true - do your research carefully.)
I appreciate your letting me share our experiences with you. It's been quite a journey, and if we can make that journey a little easier for the countless others who share this sensitivity, we will be content. Thank you.