Happy & Healthy…Buffets, salad bars & Sulphites

Bit of a personal story, but thought it might be helpful to my readers…

For a while I’ve been wondering if I might allergic to something in the salad bar at my small local grocery store, so I was keeping a food log of things I ate.  But an old college friend of mine recently reminded me that our dining hall back in college was rumored to put something in some buffet items that would sit out all day to keep them from going bad or causing food poisoning, so I then thought maybe the store was putting something into the food?  Buffets, especially at “all you can eat” restaurants, have always grossed me out, but my small local grocery store putting things in my food, too?  My favorite salad dressing and salad toppings?  Say it isn’t so!  After a little research, I discovered it’s actually possible that it might be something else entirely…

Here’s what I’ve found:

Cafeterias…Apparently many just use an antimicrobial wash additive that “reduce microorganisms on the surface of fruits and vegetables” (DiamondBakcOnline.com).  While I’m a little cautious about what the wash actually contains, what about the myth about laxatives in the food?  How else can the fact that nothing “stayed with you” after you left your dining hall in college?  Why would laxatives be put in your buffet food, anyway?  The rumor is that it would be to make sure that the food doesn’t stay in you long enough to absorb contamination or food poisoning.  Realistically, laxatives in cafeteria food is hard to prove & most college dining halls deny any laxative additives- especially since it would technically be illegal, I believe.  The blame on upset college cafeteria bellies is usually put on things like a change in eating habits, stress, an introduction of new spices to the diet (UPressOnline.com) or being hungover (let’s be honest…it was college…), but how can one explain this happening for working adults, too, who eat from the hot/cold bars at their local grocery store or cafeteria?  We’re all stressed out?  Hmm I guess that is possible in our day & age…But  I had to do some more research…


My (personal) possible solution: Sulphite (or Sulfite) Sensitivity

Back in 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfites on veggies and fruits, which was typically put on them to prevent them from turning brown, BUT many salad dressings still contain sulfites, as well as dried fruits (i.e. raisins, dried apricots, etc).  Hmm so that may be the answer, folks… Sulphites!

Here is a list of foods/drinks that MAY contain Sulphites: Sulphites Table and WebMD examples

Common reactions/symptoms to having a Sulphite Sensitivity (per Sulphite.ca): Gastrointestinal, hives, headaches, swelling, trouble breathing, rapid heart beat.

If my story & findings sound like it may be the answer to your tummy troubles, too, I’d suggest you talk to your doctor to see if Sulphites are the culprit!  Everyone is different, though.

Regardless if you might have a Sulphite Sensitivity or not, here are some facts about salad bars & buffets…

While salad bars may be convenient & have many healthy options, they might not actually be the best or healthiest option.  Per an article in the New York Times back inAugust of 1999, salad bars are essentially a breeding ground for contamination and bacteria.  Food is often left out for too long, not kept at proper temperatures and/or expired.

Per another article I read (on Tesh.com), salad bars are actually worse than hot buffets!  Heat kills many viruses, but salad bars are typically cold, thus transmitting viruses and bacteria.

Hot or cold, think about it- do you know where the person in front of you who just touched those salad tongs last had their hands?  Did they just scratch their nose?  Do they have a cold?  Are they breathing all over everything as they’re reaching for that scooper on the other side of the bar?  Hmmm maybe I really should consider bringing my lunch from home more often…better for my wallet & wellness!

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5 Comments

Filed under Happy & Healthy

5 responses to “Happy & Healthy…Buffets, salad bars & Sulphites

  1. Kate

    I love any article with references to Dana Dining Hall food. Remember the lady with all that stuff in her hair?
    I love reading your stuff, Molly!
    -Kate McNulty

  2. I had to refresh the page times to view this page for some reason, however, the information here was worth the wait.

  3. TIna

    I am trying to figure out what happened to me in Feb 2011. We went to Sizzler and I had the salad bar and beef tips over rice. I had some sort of reaction-dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, low blood pressure and throat swelling. I ended up in the ER. It apparently was sulfates. ER could not determine specifically what it was. We were thinking it was the beef tips over rice (because I am allergic to red wine and there was red wine in the sauce that I didn’t realize) but I could only get down one bite when my symptoms started. Now it makes sense (after reading your post) that it was something in the salad bar! You know, 4 months later I still cannot swallow the same since my throat swelled that night. Dr’s can’t find anything so it must be in my head (Post traumatic stress syndrome). Thank you for this post. I am going to research more about sulfates and not eat at salad bars anymore!!

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