Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites

What are sulphur dioxide and sulphites used for?
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (E220-E228) are generally used for their preservative effects.

What foods are permitted to contain sulphur dioxide and sulphites?
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites are permitted in a wide range of foods including dried fruits, breakfast sausages and burger meats (with a minimum vegetable and/or cereal content of 4%). Full details of the range of foods to which they can be added, and maximum levels allowed, can be found in Regulation 1333/2008/EC or by searching the EU database of food additives.

What amount is permitted for use in breakfast sausages and burger meat?
The maximum permitted amount of sulphur dioxide or sulphites in breakfast sausages and burger meat (with a minimum vegetable and/or cereal content of 4%) is 450mg/kg (total of all sulphites). Manufacturers of these products should be aware that seasoning mixes and other ingredients used in the manufacture of these products may already contain these additives and this should be taken into account. These additives cannot be used in breakfast sausages or burger meats with a vegetable and/or cereal content of less than 4%.

How should sulphur dioxide and sulphites be labelled on a product?
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites are considered allergens (under Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers) and can cause reactions in certain people, especially those sensitive to asthma. Therefore, for prepacked foods, their presence in a food or beverage must be indicated on the label, by its full name, where the level exceeds 10mg/kg or 10mg/L (expressed as SO2).

The additive must be listed in the list of ingredients by its functional class followed by its name e.g. Preservative: Sulphur dioxide. It is not sufficient to label just the E number.

For products where a list of ingredients is not required (e.g. alcoholic beverages with >1.2% by volume of alcohol) the presence of the allergen must still be indicated on the label e.g. ‘contains sulphur dioxide’.

In the case of wine, previous legislation granted certain derogations in relation to allergen information and must be taken into account when reading the information provided on wine bottles. Find more information on the derogations

Please Note: Since 13th December 2014, foods prepared by catering establishments (e.g. restaurants, hotels etc.), foods presented or sold loose or foods packaged on site for direct sale to the final consumer (e.g. delis, takeaways) are required to indicate the presence of allergenic ingredients, including the above additives, where they are present at greater than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L. For more information on how to declare this information please see our leaflet Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Food


Last reviewed: 22/5/2017

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