Are you allergic to beer preservatives?

I’ve seen a specialist and found out I’m allergic to the preservatives which are present in foods such as dried fruit, wine and to my horror beer! These preservatives are known as ‘sulfites’.

Under the food standards code, sulfites need to be labelled if ‘added’ in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more. So for most foods I know from the label if it’s present at those levels. The problem is, brewing yeast naturally produces sulfites, so technically they’re not being added to the drink.

It’s possible that most beer has less than 10mg/kg and I’m just ultra sensitive. However, I’ve got a theory that because many brewers aren’t adding preservatives they are assuming that the end product is below 10mg/kg. Also, if sulphites are not ‘added’ brewers don’t have to go to the trouble of putting information on the label. It’s a bit different with wine because it is commonly added and always labelled on the bottle.

Walking into a bar and seeing a bunch of craft brews on tap is so tempting, but without proper labelling I’d rather not gamble with my anaphylaxis :flushed:. I’ve tried brewing my own beer to avoid the added preservatives, but still got sick. Although there are a bunch of beers I’m totally fine with, like Coopers Pale Ale, Corona, Stone and Wood Pacific Ale.

Does anyone else have a sulfite allergy? What have you learnt about it and can you recommend some new beers for me to drink?! I’m getting tired of Coopers :weary: :beers:


I suffer from the same allergy to sulfites . It affects me like I’m having a bad hay fever attack and skin rashes . Can’t help you with the beers as I drink Coopers Pale Ale too . Not game to try others . Also watch vitamin supplements . I suffer from BMS ( burning mouth syndrome ) and have to take Vit B to control it . Some brands add sulfites but thank god by law they have to state that on packaging . Cenovis are good but some of their products add sulfites but it is stated on label as mentioned above .


Thanks @vax2000, it’s interesting you mention vitamin B. I’ve found some early stage research linking B12 deficiency to sulfite allergies. I was planning on taking a supplement to see if it made any difference, I’ll watch out for any that have added sulfites.

I take Cenovis Mega B every day . It comes in a value pack of 200 tablets . Coles New World seem to be the cheapest price on them . Contains no sulfites .

Oh, my goodness, you poor creature!

How awful for you. I love beer and would hate to have your problem, although I wonder why it has suddenly happened to you? Did it occur suddenly or just build up over time?

I love a glass of wine or three and have just recently started getting very bad headaches after drinking wine, only to learn
from my Doctor that this is quite common and caused by the preservatives…

I am sorry that I have no suggestions for a low-sulphite beer.
Best of luck with the Coopers.
Natalie :frowning:


Thanks Natalie,

It built up over time, apparently this happens to about 10% of asthmatics. Unfortunately there is no reliable way to test :syringe: for a sulphite allergy. Although you can do a medically supervised food challenge - it’s where you eat foods containing sulfites and check for a reaction (dried apricots are a killer!). But you should have a doctor present because depending on how allergic you are it can be dangerous.

I’ve been working my way through the Hottest 100 Craft Beers to see what I can and can’t drink. Much sulphite laden beer has been wasted :cry:, but the Pirate Life beers must be low sulphite as I’m not getting a reaction.


Sorry to hear that Xavier

Best of luck with those 150 beers but that is a hell of a long series of side-effects you have to put up with until you can learn of anything suitable…

My thoughts are with you!
Cheers Nat :wink:

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Just be aware that some people cannot break down Vitamin B12 into it’s active form, methylcobalamin, so you may take your B supplement and see no change. You can buy some B Vitamins or B12 with the active form as the ingredient instead of the usual supplement form cynocobalamin. My father who had no stomach (removed due to cancer) had to take B12 and did far better on Methylcobalamin, we always knew when he was low as he would start getting confused or forgetful.

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Hi Xavier

I’ve been homebrewing for years and part of my process may involve adding minerals to the water.
So your problem is less of the yeast (though some yeast will be a problem) and more of the brewing water additions done by the brewery.
The attached picture will show you the typical mineral content of the main beer styles.
These are occurring naturally the water where it’s brewed, or sometimes added by the brewers to make the beer more authentic.
The brewers add the different minerals as even a small amount can drastically change the flavor of the beer.

Unfortunately for those with a sulfate problems water profiling is becoming more important with the increase of craft brewing.

Anyway, the poster may help you find a beer that doesn’t cause you issues (like a pilsener)

All the best


There is quite a difference between sulphate and sulphite, both chemically and medically. Allergies and asthmatic reactions are such peculiar things, but unless Xavier (and many others) also have a problem with sulphates your information may not be helping. According to ASCIA sulphites are much more of a problem than sulphates.

Sulphites are present in many wines as sulphur dioxide may be added in their processing to kill unwanted microbes. Sulphites may also be produced naturally by yeasts as a byproduct of their normal metabolism so beverages that are fermented can get it two ways.

I doubt that the mineral content of various beers as you have outlined is important to this problem.


Thanks @syncretic and @johnedrick1

The sulphate data is still really interesting and explains why my local brew shop was advising my to try making Pilsner. Although it seems that would be more related to the water profile rather than the home brew kit I’m using with Sydney tap water. And yes it is sulphites not sulphates that I’m allergic to.

There has got to be something going on in the brewing process though, as I don’t get an allergic reaction from most of the big brewers, unfortunately it’s all the interesting craft beers that cause problems.

The other advice from my brew shop guy was to ferment at a higher temperature, which I did with the Pilsner kit. The end result was fine tasting, but I still got an allergic reaction.

If anyone knows what the big brewers are doing to their beers to lower the sulphite levels I’d love to know so I can try and replicate it in my homebrews.

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I am allergic to sulphites and sulphites and have asthma mildly. I cannot drink wine, liqueurs and some beers as well as medicines such as antibiotics or anything containing acesulfame potassium. Beer labelling is problematic and it’s interesting about the yeast creating it. I have found Hallal food additive websites helpful as they go into deeper analysis. This is where I found out that caramel colour 150d is a sulphite based additive and the reason I react to coke, dry ginger ale, gravy, bbq sauce, soy etc. I’m wondering if this is why the deeper coloured ales are also a problem? I avoid all numbers from 220 - 280.


Hi guys, I know it’s an old post, but I’m wondering if you guys can shed any new light on the sulphite allergies. I’ve only come to terms with my allergies over the last 2 years, I couldn’t realise what the problem was. I began about 2 years ago getting very bad Rashes across my body and couldn’t shake it off, the doctors or specialists where no help, I had to research myself abd experiment. I realised it was all the vinegar, preservatives and sulphites that caused the issue, but, now it has moved on from causing my body to get itchy now it’s my face. I can’t consume wine, vinegar anything with preservative 200+ in it. My face goes red, sweeps up, red bags under my eyes, it take about 1 week to recover from presuming I still consune foods with none of the above. I do like beer, I find tooheys new doesn’t cause the same affect, but if I have excessive amounts say 6+ beers the next few days my face and under my eye just go really bruised.
I’m waiting for some vitamins to coming in to test them out, molybdenum, zinc, b12, magnesium, iron. I read that these combined minerals/vitamins assists in breaking down sulphites in the body.

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Hi @Milos88, sorry to hear you’ve been impacted by a sulphite allergy. Not too much to update from me on this one, my allergy seems to have stabilised. I mostly know what will cause it, so can avoid triggers.

I’ve continued home brewing and I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of the allergy causes in beer. Unfortunately there are a lot of ways it can end up in beer. Some brewers use sulphites to dechlorinate water - which makes it better for brewing. Others are adding sulphites at packaging because it can prevent the beer from oxidising/producing off-flavours. Given I wasn’t doing either of those things and I was still getting sulphites in my homebrew, I had to do some further research. What I found was interesting. Basically yeast will produce heightened levels of sulphites during fermentation if it doesn’t have access to the right nutrients. The main nutrient linked to sulphite production in yeast is a lack of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). I’ve been adding yeast nutrients (Lallemand Servomyces) to my brews and so far, so good.

I’ve been finding some vinegars that I’m not allergic too as well. I suspect at least with balsamic vinegar the cause would be the additional of sulphites to the wine used to make the vinegar. Look out for vinegars that are less likely to have sulphites added. I found one from an organic winery called Rosnay in NSW.

I haven’t done any more research on vitamins, let me know how it goes.


Hey mate, thanks for that bit of info regarding the yeast, it’s actually news to me, I had no idea about that.

With regard to the vitamins, didn’t make any difference to be honest. On the contrary, some of the vitamins actually contained sulphites so I couldn’t continue taking them.

I’ve got a naturopath booked this week, so we’ll see if they can work some magic, but unfortunately I’m not that optimistic about it. I will shed some light on this in the near future if and when I find out the cure :joy:,

I’ve got an update. So after 3 years living with this dibilitating sulphite allergy, I’ve been cured. Recently I went to the doctor for an eye infection, it was a stye, he gave me cephlex antibiotics tablets. Finished the tablets, and my ‘sulphite allergy’ went away. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know. But whatever it was the antibiotics got rid of it.

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Maybe, maybe not. There is a well known logical fallacy, the English version is “after this therefore because of it”. Just because thing A precedes B does not mean that A caused B. This is particularly applicable in isolated incidents. The magical cure could be just coincidental with taking the antibiotics, we don’t know.

I’d say 99.9% sure it is… 3 years with this issue, as soon as I took anti biopics for a seperate reason, it cured me of this issue. What are the odds?
Anyhow, thought I’d share it with use

I am happy that you have solved the problem and can now enjoy a wider range of food and drink.

Without any connection between the two events you cannot say much about it including giving any probability that it was the drugs that cured you. How likely it is for the drugs to do it or some other unknown cause is impossible to say with no further information.

Put it another way, if there was a blood moon the week before your cure would you say the eclipse was responsible?

As we don’t know anything about how antibiotics might affect allergies it is the same as not knowing how an eclipse would do the same. If somebody comes up with medical opinion that explains the connection that is another matter.

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