New alternative for sulphur dioxide

26.12.2012 - 16:27

On 21 December, the European Commission announced that the so2say project, led by ttz Bremerhaven has found an alternative to adding sulphur dioxide to red wine and other foodstuffs.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2), labelled E220 on food packets, is used as a preservative for particular dried fruits and in winemaking as an antimicrobial and antioxidant. Most people can tolerate a small amount of SO2 in their food but there is a minority who suffers from allergic reactions or other after effects such as headaches, when consuming it. The so2say project, announced to the Commission that it may have identified a combination of two extracts that can replace SO2. Both of them occur naturally in wine.

Wine containing the new additive has already been tasted in some Member States (U.K., Spain and Germany) and judged to be equally good as reference bottles containing sulphur. The Commission announced that, a further batch was bottled in May 2012 and will be opened in January 2013 by the project's nine consortium members. The consortium members are: (i) ttz Bremerhaven, (ii) University of Bonn and (iiI) Meyer Gemüse bearbeitung GmbH in Germany; (iv) Wageningen University and (v) Frutarom Netherlands BV in the Netherlands; (vi) U.K.-based food research organisation Campden BRI; and (vii) Biurko Gorri, a winemaker, (viii) Tecnalia, an applied research company, and (ix) Ekolo Productos Ecológicos, a bio-food manufacturer, in Spain. More tests will follow four months later January 2013, and if successful, the technical feasibility of the new extract will have been demonstrated and the procedures for its authorisation will be able to start.

SO2 main advantage is the combination of anti-oxidative activity with its ability to inhibit the “enzymatic browning” of food products. In addition, sulphur dioxide acts as a food preservative, preventing microbial growth. However, sulphites and SO2 strongly reduce vitamin B1 uptake. As a result, reduced uptake of this vitamin can lead to several health problems such as chronic headache and temporary memory loss.