Sulfite, which is a protective agent in various food industries, also is known as an allergen. Therefore, sulfite content in food must be monitored and controlled. In this context, a novel optical sensor is designed for simple, rapid and sensitive determination of the sulfite content in food samples. Acidified pararosaniline (PRA) hydrochloride reagent in cationic form was immobilized on the surface of the Nafion cation exchanger membrane by electrostatic interactions. In formaldehyde medium, the pale purple PRA-Nafion film was converted to rich purple due to the highly conjugated alkyl amino sulfonic acid formation in the presence of sulfite and the absorbance change at 588 nm was recorded The proposed optical sensor gave a linear response in a wide concentration range for sulfite. The limit of detection (LOD) and the limit of quantification (LOQ) values obtained for sulfite were 0.084 and 0.280 ppm SO2 equivalent, respectively. The proposed optical sensor was validated in terms of linearity, additivity, precision and recovery parameters. The sulfite contents obtained for real food extracts were found to be comparable to the conventional iodometric titration results (with the exception of highly colored samples containing reducing agents, where iodometry was shown to exhibit a systematic error while the proposed sensor could measure the true value). The proposed optical sensor is insensitive to positive interferences from turbidity and colored components of the sample. Sulfite determination in a complex food matrix can be performed using the rapid, simple and sensitive PRA-based sensor without a need for pre-treatment. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.