Sulfites in wine: no big concern

Burning Questions

November 30, 2005|By ERICA MARCUS | ERICA MARCUS,NEWSDAY

I am starting to be concerned with wine-bottle labels saying "contains sulfites." How hazardous to one's health can this addition be?

For most people, not very hazardous at all, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which estimates 1 percent of the population is sensitive to some level of sulfites. Reactions, the agency says, can range from chest tightness and breathing difficulties to hives and anaphylactic shock. But most wine drinkers have nothing to fear.

Sulfites, or sulfur dioxide, preserve wine by inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms.

All wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites as they are produced naturally by the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. Most winemakers also add sulfites during the bottling process.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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