Sulphites are preservatives used in the production of some foods and drinks. They were first discovered by the Romans where it was found adding substances (now known as sulphites) to some foods would make them last longer and preserve both colour and flavours. They work as food preservatives by releasing sulphur dioxide which can be an irritant gas causing a reaction from the individual who has the allergy to either sulphites or sulphur dioxide. It is recognised as one of the 14 major allergen groups within foods.
Sulphites are very important as they can preserve foods and drinks and prevent them from ‘going off’ or stale. They are also used in the production of wine, they help with the fermentation process and without them, it would cause the wine to turn sour. They can also be used in some medicines, eye drops and other topical creams, however, within the food industry the ability to keep foods and drinks longer from being opened is an essential trait for many manufacturers. Test kits have been developed by some manufacturers to help with the identifying of sulphites in some products, these have not been found to be 100% accurate.