Adverse reactions to sulfites.CMAJ 1985; 133(9):865-7, 880CMAJ
Sulfites are widely used as preservatives in the food and pharmaceutical industries. In the United States more than 250 cases of sulfite-related adverse reactions, including anaphylactic shock, asthmatic attacks, urticaria and angioedema, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, seizures and death, have been reported, including 6 deaths allegedly associated with restaurant food containing sulfites. In Canada 10 sulfite-related adverse reactions have been documented, and 1 death suspected to be sulfite-related has occurred. The exact mechanism of sulfite-induced reactions is unknown. Practising physicians should be aware of the clinical manifestations of sulfite-related adverse reactions as well as which foods and pharmaceuticals contain sulfites. Cases should be reported to health officials and proper advice given to the victims to prevent further exposure to sulfites. The food industry, including beer and wine manufacturers, and the pharmaceutical industry should consider using alternative preservatives. In the interim, they should list any sulfites in their products.