Brussels, 21 December 2012
EU research project offers prospect of healthier festive season
European researchers have made progress towards finding an alternative to adding sulphur dioxide to red wine and other foodstuffs, such as dried fruit, holding out the hope of making future festive seasons healthier for millions.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2), labelled E220 on food packets, is used as a preservative for certain dried fruits and in winemaking as an antimicrobial and antioxidant. Most people can tolerate a small amount of SO2 in their food but in others it can cause allergic reactions or other after effects such as headaches.
The European Union-funded so2say project, led by ttz Bremerhaven, a non-profit applied research centre in Germany, believes it may now have identified a combination of two extracts that can be used instead. Both of them occur naturally in wine. According to the project, it could reduce the presence of SO2 in wine, for example, by more than 95%.
Wine containing the new additive has already been tasted in the U.K., Spain and Germany and judged to be as good as reference bottles containing sulphur. A further batch was bottled in May 2012 and will be opened in January 2013 by the project's nine consortium members. Further tests will follow four months later. If successful, the technical feasibility of the new extract will have been demonstrated and the procedures for its authorisation can start.
The main advantage of SO2 is the combination of anti-oxidative activity with its ability to inhibit the "enzymatic browning" of food products, for instance fresh cut apples. Furthermore, sulphur dioxide acts as a food preservative, preventing microbial growth. However, SO2 and sulphites strongly reduce vitamin B1 uptake. Reduced uptake of this vitamin can lead to several health problems such as chronic headache and temporary memory loss. Asthmatics are at particular risk. For these patients an intake of less than 10 mg sulphite might be enough to provoke an asthma attack.
The three-year project began in June 2009 with a total budget of €4.1 million, of which €3.0 million is funded from the EU's 7th framework programme for research and technological development (FP7). The nine members of the project are: ttz Bremerhaven, University of Bonn and Meyer Gemüse bearbeitung GmbH in Germany; Wageningen University and Frutarom Netherlands BV in the Netherlands; U.K.-based food research organisation Campden BRI; and Biurko Gorri, a winemaker, Tecnalia, an applied research company, and Ekolo Productos Ecológicos, a bio-food manufacturer, in Spain.
For more information: www.so2say.eu