When I was a little boy, many, many years ago, at the end of the summer, when fruits and vegetables were at their peak deliciousness, my mom would get out the well-used utensils for preserving the sun-filled morsels of nature’s bounty. She was canning them for those cold winter days ahead.
She would can apples in the form of applesauce and apple chunks for those delicious apple pies that she taught me how to make. The wonderful tomatoes, peaches, pears, okra and cucumbers waited their turn to be placed in sanitized glass jars. I can’t remember any time that she added sulfites to preserve the color and taste.
Everything had to be sterile and handled with care, from her hands that removed the cooked foods, to the glass jars with sterile lids. My father, not as gifted as my mom in canning, would harvest purple grapes from my grandmother’s yard in New Jersey and make some of the best tasting wine for the coming holidays. I can’t remember him adding sulfites to his wine or storing it in plastic bottles.
Sulfites have been used for years in keeping foods looking fresh and natural when stored for long periods. This chemical is known as an oxidizing agent, which causes foods of all types to retain their original color. In other words, peaches look peachy, potatoes remain white, cherries enjoy their redness, pineapples remain yellow, etc. They look like they were just picked off a tree or vine.
Sulfites come in the form of sodium and potassium sulfites, as well as metabisulfites. These chemicals can be found in coffee, tea, cake mixes, frozen pie dough, frozen sea foods, dried fruits and nuts, sauerkraut, cider, wines and a host of other foods. To avoid sulfites, one must read labels carefully.
Sulfites are known to cause many allergic reactions, such as rashes, and swelling of the mouth and lips, and they often cause acute attacks of asthma resulting from constriction of air tubes in the lungs. Thousands of folks experience asthmatic attacks each year because of sulfite ingestion. Emergency care is often required if breathing becomes labored.
In researching this chemical, I learned that if sulfites were removed from the food chain, it would be impossible to store foods for a long time in their natural color. Because of its toxicity, I strongly suggest that the Food and Drug Administration seek out other non-toxic additives that could extend the shelf life of foods and therefore protect the consumer at the same time.
I have observed throughout the city neighbors getting together and growing their own fresh produce. I am sure these city farmers may return to the old-fashioned canning methods to preserve nature’s bounty and will say to themselves, “Yes, we can” eat foods without experiencing the dangers of sulfites.