Can You Get Food Poisoning from Red Wine?

If you are an avid wine lover, or thoroughly enjoy having a glass of wine from time to time, you have probably experienced, at one point or another, a reaction to your wine that gives you symptoms similar to food poisoning.

This can lead you to question whether or not wine can give you food poisoning. 

Food poisoning will often happen if you eat something that has not been properly prepared, if it is out of date, or if it was inadequately stored.

You can also get things like salmonella, which are more vicious types of food poisoning. 

However, the reaction you can get from drinking wine, may feel like food poisoning, but it isn’t. It could be a few things, as there are certain reactions and situations that will cause you to have this feeling. 

Today we will look at what this means, if there is any possibility that you can get food poisoning from wine, what the differences are between food poisoning and alcohol poisoning, and what sulfites are and why they may have a part to play in how you are feeling. 

Can alcohol cause food poisoning? 

Not all food poisoning is the result of eating contaminated foods. Dietary supplements and beverages can contain bacteria that may cause someone to suffer from things such as salmonellosis, norovirus, botulism, or listeriosis.

However, alcoholic beverages are different, since they are fermented and distilled, this kills any harmful bacteria. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t become unwell after consuming alcohol. 

With cocktails especially, you can get harmful bacteria due to the non-alcoholic ingredients mixed into it. Another example is if you were to consume a White Russian with cream that had not been appropriately stored. 

However, when it comes to alcohols such as wine, these do not have any external ingredients, the wine is served as it is bottled after distillation and fermentation.

So, this will make you wonder, why do you feel as if you have had food poisoning, if you cannot get food poisoning from wine? 

Alcohol poisoning Vs food poisoning

It is possible that it could be alcohol poisoning. This is something that happens when you consume too much alcohol within a short time frame.

If you go out on the town and drink way too much, you may feel like you have not only a hangover, but food poisoning too, this is alcohol poisoning. 

How severe this is, and its ability to happen, will vary from person to person depending on their weight, alcohol tolerance, and the rate at which they consume alcohol.

It is not actually caused by the alcohol itself, just your reckless, over indulgent consumption. 

Headaches from red wine

Now, red wine itself is a bit of a different game. Many people love red wine, but many also complain of agonizing migraines from drinking red wine, sometimes even after only a single small glass.

The most likely cause of this are congeners, which occur naturally in many types of alcoholic beverages, including red wine. They give the drink their unique flavoring. 

The congeners that are found in red wine, including the tannins, can actually make people get migraines, and if you already suffer from migraines, you are even more likely to suffer migraines from drinking red wine.  

The only real way to avoid this is to stop drinking red wine. If you experience headaches after drinking red wine, and you notice it is happening frequently, then it is probably due to the congeners, and there is no fix for this, so sadly, red wine is not for you. 


But, what if you feel even worse after drinking red wine, as if you have come down with the flu, allergies, or even food poisoning? What does this mean? Welcome to sulfites.

Sulfites are more commonly known as sulfur dioxide, they are chemical compounds that contain the sulfite ion, these are commonly found in many food sources, including fermented foods, and what is wine? Its fermented grapes. 

What are sulfites? 

Sulfites are often used as a preservative in many foods, found in things such as soft drinks, juices, jams, jellies, sausages, and dried or pickled foods. They are used to preventing spoilage and discoloration. 

Winemakers also use sulfites to help minimize oxidation in wine and contain its freshness. These compounds are also great for preventing any bacterial growth and preserving the shelf life of wines. 

In wine, they are used to improve the taste, appearance and shelf life. 

Side effects of sulfites

A majority of people will be able to safely consume sufites found in wine without experiencing any side effects. However, there are some people who are sensitive to sulfites, this makes up about 1% of the population, 5% of which likely have asthma as well. 

For those who have asthma, it can cause irritation to the respiratory tract. It can also cause headaches in those with sensitivities. 

It has been found that people who have consumed wine with higher concentrations of sulfites often experienced a greater risk of headaches. However, other compounds in wine such as histamines, tyramine, flavonoids, and alcohol may also exacerbate these symptoms. 

It is even possible to develop other side effects from sulfites such as hives, stomach pain, diarrhea, swelling, and in some very rare cases anaphylaxis, which can be potentially fatal. 

Sulfite sensitivities 

It is also possible to have allergic-like reactions including coughing, wheezing, and even itching. Again sulfites are the main cause of this, they might preserve your wine, however, they are also the biggest culprit of the wine associated ‘sniffles’.

These compounds are not only found in wine though, they are often found in other foods too, even in cheese. However, in food the reaction may be more moderate. 

This does mean that if you have sulfite sensitivities, wine and cheese parties might be a no-fly zone for you. 

These reactions are not food-poisoning, they are simply a sensitivity to the sulfites in your wine, often coming out as allergic reactions in some cases. 

Christina Day
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