Are You Worried About Sulfites in Food?

sulfites in foodA bit of oil and vinegar in your salad makes for a simple, but delicious dressing. However, if you tend to get headaches often, that little bit of vinegar may trigger an aspirin craving.

Sulfites, the inclusive term for Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), are an allergy concern and are also hypothesized to trigger headaches. Because of this, governments regulate sulfites in food and drink products. The U.S. and Canada regulate the sulfite contents of wine, for example, at a maximum of 350 parts per million (ppm), and if it contains more than 10 ppm the label must note that the product ‘contains sulfites’.

A naturally occurring chemical in fermented products such as wine, cheese, and vinegar, sulfites are often added as a preservative, an antioxidant, and an antibacterial for the products they are used in. Without sulfites in food, these products would not last nearly as long on store shelves or in your cupboard.

With services from materials testing labs, such as ion chromatography, discovering sulfite levels, and other additives, in foods is simple.

Example of Ion Chromatography Testing for Sulfites in Food

A common ingredient in many snacks, condiments, and recipes, vinegar products contain varying levels of sulfites. Wine vinegars contain between 50 and 100 ppm of sulfites, cider vinegars between 10 and 50, and malt vinegar less than 10.

Ion chromatography can qualify and quantify sulfite levels. This material testing method separates and measures anions and cations using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). HPLC is based on the separation of a sample in solution by selective absorption.

By determining the specific anions and cations in a vinegar sample and comparing them to reference chromatograms, the chemical compounds present can be identified. To quantify the concentrations of sulfites in vinegar, ion chromatography compares the anion peak height in the sample chromatogram to a standard sulfite references which indicate the concentration level.

Liquid materials can be tested directly with ion chromatography, while solids require extraction in high purity water. The principal sample requirements are that the material must cause a change in the conductivity of the solute to be detected, and must be able to go into solution with a solvent compatible to the system. Vinegar definitely fits this testing criterion.

Comply with Regulations and Test for Sulfites in Food

Because sulfites are common in food and drink products, your company may already be concerned about meeting regulated sulfite levels. Incorporating tests such as ion chromatography into a normal product development or quality control process is a good idea to make sure your products maintain compliance.

Consumers who are allergic to sulfites, or find that these products trigger headaches depend on manufacturers to clearly label products that contain sulfites. Testing for sulfites in food provides food and drink manufacturers with valuable information to label and market products that contain sulfites.

Discover more uses of ion chromatography from Innovatech Labs and learn how we can help you solve your food and drink analysis challenges when you contact us.

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