Sulfite (sulphite) hypersensitivity and "wine allergy"

Sulphites are widely used as preservative and antioxidant additives in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Sulfites (also sulphites) are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO. Sulfites occur naturally in all wines to some extent. Sulfites are commonly introduced to arrest fermentation at a desired time, and may also be added to wine as preservatives to prevent spoilage and oxidation at several stages of the winemaking.

Sulphites can induce a range of adverse clinical effects in sensitive individuals:

- dermatitis
- urticaria
- flushing
- hypotension
- abdominal pain
- diarrhoea
- anaphylaxis
- asthmatic reactions

Exposure to the sulphites arises mainly from the consumption of foods and drinks that contain them.

Studies report a 3-10% prevalence of sulphite sensitivity among asthmatic patients following ingestion.

The mechanisms underlying sulphite sensitivity remain unclear.


A 3-D model of the sulfite anion. Image source: Wikipedia, public domain.

References:
Clinical effects of sulphite additives. Vally H, Misso NL, Madan V. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 Sep 22.
Sulfite. Wikipedia.

Related:
Allergy to Wine? Correct Diagnosis May be Wine-Induced Anaphylaxis and Sensitization to Hymenoptera Venom
Alcohol, allergies, histamines and sulfites – reactions from an allergist http://bit.ly/aJdjf2
Possible reaction to metabisulfite. AAAAI - Ask the Expert. http://goo.gl/Qaaij
Challenge test to metabisulfites - AAAAI Ask the Expert, 2011.
Alcohol allergy? 1. Prick-prick tests with suspected drinks. 2. If negative, oral challenge test with increasing doses of the drinks should be performed. http://buff.ly/16uHYbi
Image source: Wikipedia, Free Documentation License.

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