When you hear the term sulfites, your first thought might be wine. However, many food products, especially those that are shelf stable, contain added sulfites for preservative purposes. Mercer Foods does not add sugars, sulfites, or chemicals to our products. Our process and expertise allow our products to deliver unmatched shelf-life and flavor without added preservatives.

Here at Mercer Foods, we’ve been perfecting the art of freeze-drying for more than 35 years. We’ve seen almost everything and have worked with you, our customers, for years to find solutions to your brand and product needs. That means delivering pure, natural ingredients with true taste and nutrition — without added sulfites. So, why are sulfites used in the first place?

History of sulfites

Sulfites have been used for centuries as a purifier and antibacterial agent as well as a food preservative, most notably in winemaking. Ancient Greeks and Romans used sulfur, the basis of sulfites, to sanitize wine barrels and to keep it from turning to vinegar.

Sulfites are used in more than winemaking.

The use of sulfites in food and wine preservation dates back centuries.

Sulfites in food

While some foods have naturally occurring sulfites, sulfites are often used as a preservative. Commonly added to dried fruits to increase the shelf stability and longevity of the item, sulfites are also used to prevent bacteria and discoloration. The most common sulfite, sulfur dioxide, leads this list, but sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite may also be used.

The use of sulfite levels in foods varies widely by application. In addition to preventing browning and bacteria, sulfites can be used as bleaching agents, conditioning agents, to prevent alkalinity in foods, and as processing aids. This cheap preservative may be appealing due to its versatility but does come with its downsides.

Sulfites alter flavor and nutrition

While sulfites preserve dried food, they can often change the flavor of fruits and vegetables when added. These preservatives also destroy other naturally-occurring vitamins. Vitamin C may be stable with added sulfites, but vitamin B1 drastically degrades.

Sulfite regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes sulfites as safe for consumption for most people. However, some people have an allergy or sensitivity to sulfites. To keep consumers apprised of what is in their food, and for allergy purposes, the FDA requires manufacturers and brands state on food labels when sulfites are added or used as an ingredient or preservative. Added sulfites are not permitted in foods that have naturally-occurring high amounts of vitamin B1. Foods that contain certain undeclared amounts of added sulfites are subject to recall.

Sulfite-free freeze-dried fruit.

Mercer Foods does not add any sulfites to its freeze-dried foods.

Stable without sulfites

Our advanced freeze-drying process allows us to remove the water within a food, keeping everything else intact, including the nutrients, flavor, and color. We freeze the ingredient, enabling all water turn into a solid ice form. With a combination process of time and vaccuum, the solid ice changes to a vapor as it leaves the product. Removing the water through this sublimation phase eliminates the defrost stage of traditional freezing, resulting in a perfectly preserved ingredient. With the moisture removed, the food doesn’t have the compound to mold, rot, discolor, or decay. This allows the food to have a pure and natural taste without any added preservatives.

Sulfite-free food

All of our products are sulfite free, making our ingredients an ideal choice to meet allergen compliance. A percentage of the population has an allergy or sensitivity to sulfites, and make an effort to avoid consumption of the added preservative. Working with Mercer Foods, you can be confident there are no added preservatives sneaking into your product, allowing your brand to appeal to a full consumer audience.

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