• G. W. Gould
  • N. J. Russell


As an element, sulfur was well known by the ancients — witness the divine vengeance that befell Sodom and Gomorrah on whom “fire and brimstone” were rained (Genesis). This was not only an act of retribution but of cleansing also, for the burning of sulfur had long been regarded as a means of purification in terms of both physical cleaning and spiritual restoration. In another sense also sulfur was used for its purifying properties, and from the Greek era until relatively modern times, sulfur was burned for the disinfection which its fumes produced. Although not used directly as a food preservative, sulfur was burned sometimes in vessels or places where food or drink was stored. This provides a direct link with modern usage of sulfite as a preservative, because the fumes from sulfur-burning contain gaseous sulfur dioxide (SO2) which is probably the predominant form in which sulfite is taken up by microbial cells to exert its killing action on them. Nowadays the source of SO2 is more commonly from dissolved salts, mainly sodium metabisulfite which, in Europe, is designated food additive E223 or from potassium metabisulfite (E224) (Hanssen and Marsden, 1984). Gaseous sulfur dioxide has the number E220, and where its specific use in food is permitted the regulation applies to all forms of sulfite [e.g. sodium sulfite, E221; sodium bisulfate, E222; calcium sulfite, E226; calcium bisulfate, E227; potassium acid sulfite (potassium bisulfate, E228)]. In the United States, the use of sulfite in its various forms was Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). However, reports that sulfite, particularly if inhaled as SO2, could affect some individuals suffering from asthma (Giffon et al., 1989) have led to more restricted and careful use. Indeed, its GRAS status in the United States has been withdrawn for certain fresh products, such as cut potatoes (Food and Drug Administration, 1990), for which alternative preservatives to sulfite are being sought (Laurila et al., 1998). Although inhaled SO2 is quite toxic for humans, the S(iv) oxoanions are relatively harmless because animals have efficient detoxication systems that oxidize sulfite to sulfate (Wedzicha, 1984; Ough, 1993).


Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide Pyridoxal Phosphate Food Preservative Food Protection Sulfite Oxidase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Banks, J.G. and Board, R.G. (1982) Sulfite inhibition of Enterobacteriaceae including Salmonella in British fresh sausage and culture systems. Journal of Food Protection, 45, 1292–1297.Google Scholar
  2. Beck-Speier, I., Hinze, H., and Holzer, H. (1985) Effect of sulfite on the energy metabolism of mammalian tissues in correlation with sulfite oxidase activity. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 841, 81–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cartmell, E. and Fowles, G.W.A. (1961) Valency and Molecular Structure, 2nd edn, Butterworths, London.Google Scholar
  4. Chang, I.S., Kim, B.H., and Shin, P.K. (1997) Use of sulfite and hydrogen peroxide to control bacterial contamination in ethanol fermentation. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 63, 1–6.Google Scholar
  5. Cheah, L.H., Hunt, A.W., and Buge, G.K. (1992) Sulfur dioxide fumigation for control of botrytis storage rot of kiwifruit. New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 20, 173–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, H.J. and Fridovich, I. (1971) Hepatic sulfite oxidase. Purification and properties. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 246, 359–366.Google Scholar
  7. Cotton, F.A. and Wilkinson, G. (1966) Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, 2nd edn, Interscience Publishers, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Creighton, T.E. (1984) Proteins. Structures and Molecular Properties, Freeman, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Cypionka, H. (1987) The inorganic sulfate transport system of Penicillium chrysogenum. Archiv für Mikrobiologie, 148, 144–149.Google Scholar
  10. Dowdell, M.J. and Board, R.G. (1972) The microbial associations in British fresh sausage. Journal of Applied Bacteriology, 34, 317–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dyett, E.J. and Shelley, D. (1966) The effects of sulfite preservative in British fresh sausages. Journal of Applied Bacteriology, 29, 439–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eisgruber, H. and Reuter, G. (1995) A selective medium for the detection and enumeration of mesophilic sulphitereducing clostridia in food monitoring programs. Food Research International, 28, 219–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eschenbrenner, J., Covès, J., and Fontecave, M. (1995) The flavin reductase activity of the flavoprotein component of sulfite reductase from Escherichia coli. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 270, 20550–20555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Food and Drug Administration (1990) Sulfiting agents: Revocation of GRAS status for use on “fresh” potatoes served or sold unpackaged and unlabeled to consumers. Federal Register, 55, 9826–9833.Google Scholar
  15. Garcia, M., Benitez, J., Delgado, J., and Kotyk, A. (1983) Isolation of sulphate transport defective mutants of Candida utilis: Further evidence for a common transport system for sulphate, sulphite and thiosulphate. Folia Microbiologia, 28, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gardner, N., Rodrigue, N., and Champagne, C.P. (1993) Combined effects of sulfites, temperature, and agitation time on production of glycerol in grape juice by Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 59, 2022–2028.Google Scholar
  17. Garrett, R.M. and Rajagopalan, K.V. (1996) Site-directed mutagenesis of recombinant sulfite oxidase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 271, 7387–7391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Genesis 19 24.Google Scholar
  19. George, G.N., Kipke, C.A., Prince, R.C., Sunde, R.A., Enemark, J.H., and Cramer, S.P. (1989) Structure of the active site of sulfite oxidase. X-ray absorption spectroscopy of the Mo(IV), Mo(V), and Mo(VI) oxidation states. Biochemistry, 28, 5075–5080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giffon, E., Vevloet, D., and Charpin, J. (1989) Suspicion sur les sulfites. Revue des Maladies Respiratoires, 6, 303–310.Google Scholar
  21. Gould, G.W. (2000) The use of other chemical preservatives: sulfite and nitrite. In The Microbiological Safety and Quality of Foods (eds B.M. Lund, A.C. Baird-Parker, and G.W. Gould ), Aspen Publishers Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., pp. 200–213.Google Scholar
  22. Gunnison, A.F. and Jacobsen, D.N. (1987) Sulfite: Hypersensitivity, a critical review. CRC Critical Reviews of Toxicology, 17, 185–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hallenbeck, P.C., Clark, M.A., and Barrett, E.L. (1989) Characterization of anaerobic sulfite reduction by Salmonella typhimurium and purification of the anaerobically induced sulfite reductase. Journal of Bacteriology, 171, 3008–3015.Google Scholar
  24. Han, S., Madden, J.F., Thompson, R.G., Strauss, S.H., Siegel, L.M., and Spiro, T.G. (1989) Resonance Raman studies of Escherichia coli sulfite reductase hemoprotein. 1. Siroheme vibrational modes. Biochemistry, 28, 5461–5471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hansen, J., Cherest, H., and Kielland-Brandt, M.C. (1994) Two divergent METIO genes, one from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and one from Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, encode the a subunit of sulfite reductase and specify potential binding sites for FAD and NADPH. Journal of Bacteriology, 176, 6050–6058.Google Scholar
  26. Hanssen, M. and Marsden, J. (1984) E for Additives, Thorsons Publishers, Wellingborough, England, pp. 60–65.Google Scholar
  27. Hinze, H. and Holzer, H. (1985) Effect of sulfite or nitrite on the ATP content and the carbohydrate metabolism in yeast. Zeitschrift far Lebensmittel und Untersuch Forschnung, 181, 87–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hinze, H. and Holzer, H. (1986a) Analysis of the energy metabolism after incubation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with sulfite or nitrite. Archiv far Mikrobiologie, 145, 27–31.Google Scholar
  29. Hinze, H. and Holzer, H. (1986b) Mechanism of sulfite action on the energy metabolism of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 848, 120–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huang, C.J. and Barrett, E.L. (1990) Identification and cloning of genes involved in anaerobic sulfite reduction by Salmonella typhimurium. Journal of Bacteriology, 172, 4100–4102.Google Scholar
  31. Huynh, B.H., Kang, L., DerVartanian, D.V., Peck, H.D. Jr, and LeGall, J. (1984) Characterization of a sulfite reductase from Desulforibrio vulgaris. Evidence for the presence of a low-spin siroheme and an exchange-coupled siroheme-[4Fe-4S] unit. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 259, 15373–15376.Google Scholar
  32. Janick, P.A., Rueger, D.C., Krueger, R.J., Barber, M.J., and Siegel, L.M. (1983) Characterization of complexes between Escherichia coli sulfite reductase hemoprotein subunit and its substrates sulfite and nitrite. Biochemistry, 22, 396–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) (1987) Toxicological evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants. World Health Organisation Food Additives Series: 21, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 173–219.Google Scholar
  34. King, A.D. Jr, Ponting, J.D., Sanschuck, D.W., Jackson, R., and Mihara, K. (1981) Factors affecting death of yeast by sulfur dioxide. Journal Food Protection, 44, 92–97.Google Scholar
  35. Kredich, N.M. (1971) Regulation of L-cysteine biosynthesis in Salmonella typhimurium. I. Effects of growth on varying sulfur sources and O-acetyl-L-serine on gene expression. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 246, 3474–3484.Google Scholar
  36. Laurila, E.K., Hurme, E.U., and Ahvenainen, R.T. (1998) Shelf life of sliced raw potatoes of various cultivar varieties — substitution of bisulfites. Journal of Food Protection, 61, 1363–1371.Google Scholar
  37. Macris, B.J. and Markakis, P. (1974) Transport and toxicity of sulfur dioxide in Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. ellipsoideus. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 25, 21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McFeeters, R.F. (1998) Use and removal of sulfite by conversion to sulfate in the preservation of salt-free cucumbers. Journal of Food Protection, 61, 885–890.Google Scholar
  39. McRee, D.E., Richardson, D.C., Richardson, J.S., and Siegel, L.M. (1986) The heure and Fe4S4 cluster in the crystallographic structure of Escherichia coli sulfite reductase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 261, 10277–10281.Google Scholar
  40. McWeeney, D.J., Shepherd, M., and Bates, M.L. (1980) Physical loss and chemical reactions of SO, in strawberry jam. Journal of Food Technology, 15, 613–617.Google Scholar
  41. Milian, F.R., López Pia, S., Roa Tavera, V., Tapia, M.S., and Cava, R. (2001) Microbiological stability study of minimally processed canteloupe (Cucumis melo L.) by vacuum. (In Spanish.) Archivos Latinamericanos de Nutricion, 51, 173–179.Google Scholar
  42. O’Donnell, P.S. and Hug, D.H. (1989) Thermal activation of photoactivatable urocanase from Pseudomonas putida. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 3, 429–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oloyede, D.B. and Abalaka, J.A. (1989) Sporulation of bacterial species in the presence of metabisulphite. Microbios, 57, 49–63.Google Scholar
  44. Ostrowski, J.O., Wu, J.-Y., Rueger, D.C., Miller, B.E., Siegel, L.M., and Kredich, N.M. (1989) Characterization of the cysJIH region of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli B. DNA sequences of cys7 and cysH and a model for the sirohemee-Fe4S4 active center of sulfite reductase hemoprotein based on amino acid homology with spinach nitrite reductase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 264, 15726–15737.Google Scholar
  45. Ough, C.S. (1993) Sulfur dioxides and sulfites. In Antimicrobials in Foods (eds P.M. Davidson and A.N. Brannen ), Marcel Dekker, New York, pp. 137–190.Google Scholar
  46. Pilkington, B.J. and Rose, A.H. (1989) Accumulation of sulphite by Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Zygosaccharomyces bailii as affected by phospholipid fatty-acyl unsaturation and chain length. Journal of General Microbiology, 135, 2433–2438.Google Scholar
  47. Rabinowitch, H.D., Rosen, G.M., and Fridovich, I. (1989) A mimic of superoxide dismutase activity protects Chlorella sorokiniana against the toxicity of sulfite. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 6, 45–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rehm, H.J. (1964) The antimicrobial action of sulfurous acid. In Microbial Inhibitors in Foods (ed. N. Molin ), Almqvist & Wiksell, Uppsala, pp. 105–115.Google Scholar
  49. Roberts, A.C. and McWeeney, D.J. (1972) The use of sulfur dioxide in the food industry: A review. Journal of Food Technology, 7, 221–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rose, A.H. (1993) Composition of the envelope layers of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in relation to flocculation and ethanol tolerance. Journal of Applied Bacteriology, Symposium Supplement, 74, 1105–1185.Google Scholar
  51. Rose, A.H. and Pilkington, B.J. (1989) Sulfite. In Mechanisms of Action of Food Preservation Procedures (ed. G.W. Gould ), Elsevier Applied Science, London, pp. 201–223.Google Scholar
  52. Ryall, A.L. and Harvey, J.M. (1959) The cold storage of Vinifera table grapes. US Department of Agricultural Research Service Handbook, Number 159, 46 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Sahasrabudhe, M.R., Larmond, E., and Nunes, A.C. (1976) Sulfur dioxide in instant mashed potato flakes. Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology, 9, 207–211.Google Scholar
  54. Sapers, G.M. (1993) Browning of foods: Control by sulfites, antioxidants and other means. Scientific Status Summary. Food Technology, 47, 75–84.Google Scholar
  55. Schlegel, H.G. (1986) General Microbiology (6th edn) (Transl. M. Kogut), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.Google Scholar
  56. Schroeter, L.C. (1996) Sulfur Dioxide: Applications in Foods, Beverages and Pharmaceuticals, Pergamon Press, Long Island City.Google Scholar
  57. Scientific Committee for Food (1981) Eleventh Series. EUR 7421. Commission of the European Communities, Food Science and Techniques. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxemburg, pp. 47–48.Google Scholar
  58. Shapiro, R. (1977) Genetic effects of bisulfite (sulfur dioxide). Mutation Research, 39, 149–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Society of Dyers and Colourists (1971) Colour Index, Vol. 2, 3rd edn, The Society of Dyers and Colourists, Bradford.Google Scholar
  60. Solomon, H.M., Rhodehamel, E.J., and Kautter, D.A. (1994) Growth and toxin production by Clostridium botulinum in sliced raw potatoes under vacuum with and without sulfite. Journal of Food Protection, 57, 878–881.Google Scholar
  61. Solomon, H.M., Rhodehamel, E.J., and Kautter, D.A. (1998) Growth and toxin production by Clostridium botulinum on sliced raw potatoes in a modified atmosphere with and without sulfite. Journal of Food Protection, 61, 126–128.Google Scholar
  62. Tamblyn, K.C., Conner, D.E., and Bilgili, S.F. (1997) Utilization of the skin attachment model to determine the antibacterial efficacy of potential carcass treatments. Poultry Science, 76, 1318–1323.Google Scholar
  63. Taylor, S.L., Higley, N.A., and Bush, R.K. (1986) Sulfites in foods: Uses, analytical methods, residues, fate, exposure assessment, metabolism, toxicity, and hypersensitivity. Advances in Food Research, 30, 1–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tegoni, M. and Matthews, F.S. (1988) Crystallographic study of the complex between sulfite and bakers’ yeast flavocytochrome b2. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 263, 19278–19281.Google Scholar
  65. Timberlake, C.F. (1980) Anthocyanins — occurrence, extraction and chemistry. Food Chemistry, 5, 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Toghrol, F. and Southerland, W.M. (1983) Purification of Thiobacillus novellus sulfite oxidase. Evidence for the presence of heme and molybdenum. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 258, 6762–6766.Google Scholar
  67. Wagner, M., Roger, A.J., Flax, J.L., Brusseau, G.A., and Stahl, D.A. (1998) Phylogeny of dissimilatory sulfite reductases supports on early origin of sulfate respiration. Journal of Bacteriology, 180, 2975–2981.Google Scholar
  68. Wedzicha, B.L. (1984) Chemistry of Sulfur Dioxide in Foods, Elsevier Applied Science Publishers, Barking, England.Google Scholar
  69. Wedzicha, B.L. (1991) Sulphur dioxide — the most versatile food additive? Chemistry in Britain, November, 1030–1032.Google Scholar
  70. Wedzicha, B.L. (1992) Chemistry of sulfating agents in food. Food Additives and Contaminants, 9, 449–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Woodroof, J.G. and Luh, B.S. (1975) Commercial Fruit Processing, AVI Publishing Co., Westport, CT.Google Scholar
  72. Wu, J.-Y., Siegel, L.J., and Kredich, N.M. (1991) High-level expression of Escherichia coli NADPH-sulfite reductase: Requirement for a cloned cysG plasmid to overcome limiting siroheme cofactor. Journal of Bacteriology, 173, 325–333.Google Scholar
  73. Yamamoto, L.A. and Segel, J.H. (1966) Isolation of transport defective mutants of Candida utilis: Further evidence for a common transport system for sulfate, sulfite and thiosulfate. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 114, 523–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Zeghouf, M., Fontecave, M., and Covès, J. (2000) A simplified functional version of the Escherichia coli sulfite reductase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 275, 37651–37656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. W. Gould
  • N. J. Russell

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations