False positive and false negative reactions encountered in the use of sulfite test strips for the detection of sulfite-treated foods

Julie A. Nordlee, Sharmila G. Naidu, Steve L. Taylor

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The reliability of a qualitative test for sulfites in foods (Sulfitest sulfite test strips) was evaluated by comparison of the results obtained from the analysis of 90 food and beverage samples to results obtained by the quantitative, modified Monier-Williams method (the preferred procedure for sulfite analysis in foods of the Food and Drug Administration). The results obtained with the sulfite test strips compared favorably to the results of the Monier-Williams procedure when the sulfite test strips were used on sulfite-treated lettuce and raw or cooked potatoes. However, the strips yielded many false negative and false positive results with other types of foods. False positive results (strips indicated a substantial amount of sulfite when sulfite was not detectable by the Monier-Williams method) were obtained with fin fish, red meats, and poultry. False negative results (strips indicated the absence of sulfites when sulfite was detected at levels >10 ppm total sulfur dioxide by the Monier-Williams method) were obtained with dried fruits and wines under certain conditions of testing. The false negative responses with the test strips may result in the hazardous consumption of foods with high levels of sulfites, such as dried fruit or wine, by a sulfite-sensitive individual. The false positive responses would not be hazardous but could lead sensitive individuals to avoid foods that could be safely consumed. Although the strips may be useful for the detection of sulfites in certain foods, such as lettuce and potatoes, their use by sulfite-sensitive individuals cannot be recommended because of the confusion and potential hazards posed by the false negative and false positive responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-530
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1988


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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