Canned Food and Wine Ingredient Causes Adverse Reactions

By Heather Callaghan

It was night time. I was in bed. I was tired and ready to rest to begin the next day.

That’s when I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Out of the blue, my heart starts uncontrollably racing. A weak, erratic, snare-drum pace. Then came the sudden nausea and “heavy lungs.”

What caused this?

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You know when you get food poisoning, how you just know what caused it? (well, there’s also evidence) But I just knew what caused this scary event – and I was right!

I thought I had had a healthy “paleo-ish” dinner, the only non-paleo part being the 5oz of wine afterward. All was well. A few hours later, I made an impromptu bean dip from a can of southwestern bean salad. Not the greatest idea considering the BPA and possible MSG, but there didn’t appear to be any. How can two small amounts of something wreak so much havoc…

This was going to be a long night.

I took whatever heart remedies I could find to slow the scary racing. I meditated and prayed as best as I could and drank tons of water. I am not going to an emergency room for a lousy can!

What was in that can of beans that kept arising in my consciousness?

It was Sodium Bisulfite…the same ingredient that goes by other names in the class of “sulfites” you see on a typical bottle of red wine. Double-whammy. Turns out, it can cause rapid heartbeat among other symptoms (below).

It is a common preservative and bleaching agent in many processed foods – dried fruits in trail mix, for instance, and flours, grains and dough conditioner. It’s not really salt – it’s more of a sulfur compound. Other names for sulfites appearing on labels include sulfur dioxide, sodium or potassium bisulfite, sodium or potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite.
It was considered such a great preservative for preventing browning that it used to be used on produce and salad bars. Did you know that in 1986, the FDA had to change their tune on sodium bisulfite after finally investigating over 500 adverse reactions and 13 deaths linked to the ingredient? This ingredient can be seriously dangerous to asthmatics, especially if it leads to anaphylactic shock.

Sure, there are ‘safe levels’ that the FDA considers okay now (“when used in accordance with good manufacturing practice”). But if people don’t realize the amounts of sulfites in various foods, how are they to know when they’ve overdosed?

Whether allergic or sensitive, symptoms can include rapid heartbeat, flushing, hives, swelling of the tongue and face, anxiety, vomiting and a drop in lung function (seen in those sensitive to its use in medications).

A thorough list of foods and medications with their amounts of sulfites appears here. You can see how easy it would be to accidentally consume “too much” in one day, whatever that might be for each person. Sulfites only require labeling if they go above 10ppm. It should also be noted that the FDA makes big exceptions for industries who claim a ban would kill their business – the frozen and canned potato industry.

Maybe you are not as entirely sensitive to these ingredients as I am. If you are, there’s hope. Look up NAET therapy – it’s a gentle, natural treatment mode that removes the allergic reaction to common foods, ingredients and chemicals. It doesn’t mean that it will remove the negative effects to your health, it just means that the overkill inflammation charge gets removed. I received much allergy help with a practitioner – as it happens, we had not yet landed on sulfites. This practice is especially helpful for those who do not have much food choice and/or are stocking up on preserved goods for future use.

The other, more obvious solution of course, is to avoid eating things that require preservatives and toxic packaging.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

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