MYTH MONDAY: Do dates contain sulfur as a chemical preservative?

Date Blog Post 7 PicFrom basic inaccuracies about whether or not it’s a fresh or dried fruit to more complex nutrition questions, it seems that many people are generally misinformed about our favorite delicious, nutritious fruit: dates. But not for much longer, if we have anything to do with it.
In an ongoing series of Myth Monday blog posts, the Date Research Institute will debunk these widely held beliefs – some of which you may have been thinking were facts for years. Prepare to be astonished. Today we’ll take on myth #1: dates contain the common chemical preservative sulfur dioxide.

About Sulfur Dioxide

The common chemical preservative sulfur dioxide can be found in many frequently purchased foods, from vinegar to dried fruits. Where are you sure to not find sulfur? In dates.

Sulfur has many uses in the science and food industries. As a preservative, one of its main uses is keeping light colored dried fruits their natural color and preventing them from turning brown. Why will you not find sulfur in dates?

    1. Dates are not a dried fruit.
       2. Dates are already brown.

How Sulfur Dioxide Works

Sulfur dioxide keeps these fruits from turning brown by blocking a reaction between sugars and amino acids. In dried apricots, for example, this type of reaction results in a darker color, lower amounts of amino acids, and a change in flavor. Sulfur dioxide is also an antimicrobial, which means it can slow the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold.

However, dates don’t need additional chemicals to increase their already long shelf life. They can stay fresh in a sealed container for multiple months and in your fridge for up to a year! This is because dates have much lower moisture content than most other fruits, which average 75 to 95 percent moisture content. Fresh dates are only about 30 percent moisture, making them the only fruit that naturally has such a long shelf life.

Why Choose Dates

When adding chemical preservatives to food, you always run the risk of potential negative side effects. Some reported effects of sulfur dioxide include:

  • Increased risk of migraine headache, especially in women.
  • Aggravation of certain respiratory conditions, including asthma.
  • Abnormal taste in some foods.

Additionally, there are people out there who are allergic to sulfur. Ingesting sulfur dioxide can be harmful for those with a sulfur allergy, and cause anything from mild hives to (very rarely) allergic shock.

As previously stated, dates don’t have any added ingredients – not even sugar! When you eat a date, you know you’re eating a fresh fruit and nothing more.

To review…

When you buy fresh dates, you can rest easy with the knowledge that you’re buying a nutrient-rich food that’s free from sulfur dioxide and all other preservatives.

A food that lasts a long time, is good for you, and tastes good? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. It’s a date!

How you can help

If you come across a myth about dates, please send it to us. If it’s information we haven’t already found, we’ll send you a box of California dates to thank you for your help!


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