From sulphites to benzoates…could food additives be causing your allergy symptoms?

food pres

Food preservatives are the chemicals that are added to your food to keep it from spoiling. They inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and moulds and are found in nearly all canned and processed foods – from fast and frozen foods, to deli meats and dairy products.

Some people argue that certain food preservatives and other additives spark allergies in sensitive people and can lead to chronic health conditions. Watch out for …


Sulphites (220-228) are naturally occurring minerals that are added to foods to help prevent bacterial growth, and to preserve flavour and colour. But a sensitivity to them can trigger a range of allergic conditions – including hives, asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) – as well as a number of other respiratory-type illnesses.

Many of the sulphates we eat are found in unlabelled or processed foods, including:

  • Alcohol (wine, beer and cider)
  • Condiments and relishes
  • Processed fruits and vegetables (candied, dried and imitation)
  • Deli meats
  • Sweet sauces.


Found naturally in some foods like berries, sorbates (200-203), are also produced synthetically and are often added to food to help reduce bacteria, fungi, molds and yeast. They’ve have been linked to a host of allergic conditions including asthma, contact dermatitis, eczema and eye/nose/throat irritations. And, not only that, have been associated with some food intolerance reactions, including gastrointestinal disorders and behavioural problems in children.

Nowadays, sorbate preservatives are creeping into more and more foods to help prolong their shelf life. Watch out for:

  • Some dairy products (particularly cottage cheese and yoghurt)
  • Dried meat
  • Dried foods
  • Wine
  • Apple cider
  • Sweet sauces.


Benzoates (210-212), often found in processed foods and soft drinks, may increase risk factors for asthma attacks and hypertension, and can trigger or exacerbate attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, especially in children. When combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), benzonates can also transform into a chemical compound known as benzene, a recognised carcinogen associated with a range of acute health issues.

Other additives

Along with preservatives, there are a number of other potentially harmful food substances that are added to food to preserve flavor or enhance taste and appearance. Look out for:

  • Flavour enhancers – including glutamates and MSG, which are typically found in savoury foods and sauces, and have been associated with allergic conditions, including headaches and asthma.
  • Artificial sweeteners – often added to foods labelled ‘diet’ or ‘low in sugar’, which have been linked to headaches, allergies, behavioural changes and several cancers.
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – a waxy solid often added to foods like chips and cereals to preserve fats, which may cause cancer.
  • Food colourings – both natural and synthetic, which have been associated with some allergic conditions (including asthma), cancer, and learning difficulties/hyperactivity in children.
  • High fructose corn syrup – a sweetener made from corn starch that’s commonly added to sodas and flavoured drinks, which has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.


What can you do?


You can avoid harmful additives by choosing organic foods that are naturally processed. Stick to lean meats (labelled as ‘grass-fed’, ‘free-range’, ‘antibiotic’ or ‘hormone free’), avoid packaged or deli meats, and opt for organic fruit and vegetables.


There are also several natural preservative alternatives that may help keep food from spoiling, including:

  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Herbs and spices (like oregano, cinnamon, sage, thyme and rosemary).

You can also try natural flavour enhancers – such as salt, lemon juice, stevia and herbs and spices – to help boost the flavour of your fresh food, naturally.

Try our natural allergy treatment 

At Health & Wellness Australia & Auckland (HWA), we use a technique called muscle testing (or kinesiology) to help identify people’s sensitivities to preservatives and other common food additives. Following testing, you can work with your practitioner to address these sensitivities using a natural allergy treatment called Positive Association Technique (PAT).

PAT is a non-invasive holistic therapy, which:

  • draws on acupressure and kinesiology techniques
  • aims to re-train your body
  • may reduce your body’s reactions to common chemicals that may be causing or exacerbating your symptoms.

Some cases can be complex, so our naturopaths may also recommend supplements, herbs and lifestyle advice to help you achieve the best long-term results.

This blog is intended as general information only. PAT cannot cure allergies – it is intended to decrease reactions and help manage symptoms. It is not intended to raise unrealistic expectations. If symptoms persist, consult your GP.

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