The Wine Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

Have you looked at a bottle of wine and noticed it almost always says it contains sulfites.  What exactly are sulfites and what do they do to us?

As it turns out, sulfites have been in use since ancient Rome.  Because of this, they have essentially been “grandfathered” in to our food safety standards.  Which also means there has been very little long-term safety studies done to prove that humans can consume it with little or no health consequences.

Sulfites are added to processed food, beer, wine, deli meats, sausage, and mass-produced pizza.  They can be labeled as sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfate, and potassium metabisulfate.   Non-organic wine (large majority of all sold in the US) contains very high levels of sulfites.  They use it to stop fermentation before bottling and to help white wines to stay crisp white instead of its natural tendency to tan slightly with age.  They are in no means necessary to produce wine.  So, along with your cup of nice California Merlot, your also getting a heavy dose of sulfites, which at least 10% of people have sensitivities to and probably don’t know it.

Some of the known symptoms of sulfite allergies include itchy eyes, runny nose, and wheezing cough.  It is often mistaken by doctors as hay fever.  The long terms effects are not really known as the food and wine industry maintain that sulfites are completely safe.  From a rational point of view, sulfites are used to kill bacteria and yeast in wine and food, so when you drink a couple of glasses wine with sulfites added, your are essentially drinking something that can kill all of the beneficial bacteria in your gut that promotes healthy digestion.   Can some stomach problems be associated with sulfites? Its very possible.

What you can do to avoid sulfites:

Look for wine bottles that contain no sulfites, such as certified organic wines. If your local wine store doesn’t carry any, just tell them to order some, they probably will.  From my own experience, when I drink an organic, sulfite-free wine, I don’t wake up with the usual headache and overall crappy feeling that I get when drinking regular wine.  That alone is enough for me to stay away from regular sulfite added wine.

Look for sulfite and preservative free deli meats or just stay away from deli meats all together. You can substitute fresh grilled chicken or roasted turkey.

Stay away from hotdogs and sausage that don’t say “sulfite free.”  If your not sure, ask your butcher if he can make sausage without sulfites.

You are what you eat, so eat healthy and you will be.


Sulphite preservatives in wine and food can cause significant health issues.