Survey of sulphur dioxide in soft drinks

A Food Standards Agency survey of soft drinks has found that manufacturers are making sure that sulphur dioxide levels are within the legal limits.

The survey looked at 75 samples of squash, lemon and lime juice, and barley waters for sulphites, the form in which sulphur dioxide is added to food. Samples were taken from five different areas of the UK and from both supermarkets and independent shops. All of the drinks in this survey met the legal requirements.

Sulphur dioxide is widely used as a preservative. Limits are set for the amount allowed in food to protect consumers – too much can cause an upset stomach. The maximum level for soft drinks (as sold) is set at 350 milligrams per litre for lime and lemon juice and barley water, and 250 milligrams per litre for squash. Sulphur dioxide can trigger an attack at low levels in some people with asthma, but they can avoid foods containing sulphites by checking the label.

The survey measured levels of sulphur dioxide in newly opened soft drinks. Further work is planned to look at how levels of sulphur dioxide in drinks fall during storage. The findings will be used with the results of this survey to find out how much sulphur dioxide is being consumed and to decide whether the limits allowed in food need to be changed.

The Agency is also looking at the levels in sausages and burgers, food in which sulphur dioxide is also widely used as a preservative. The results of this research will be published later this year.

Survey of sulphur dioxide in soft drinks
Read the Food Survey Information Sheet


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