Are you looking for the Master List of Ingredients to Avoid? It can be found here: http://go.livecornfree.com/list
Many of you are probably familiar with "the list" and you know it's long, and difficult to memorize when you are new to the Corn Allergy Community.
In addition to using this card while you shop and read labels, consider carrying this card as part of your Medical Alert program. If you wear a bracelet, a note of "See Wallet Card" should be sufficient.
The inside of the card contains the most common ingredients derived from corn, but, it does not contain all of them. After agonizing over trying to fit all of the ingredients I know on a single wallet-sized piece of paper, this is what I will be using.
The card is available as a free download, within Google Docs (PDF Format). The Google Docs web address for this document is unbearably long, so you can access it using this short link: http://bit.ly/corncard.
Print the file, fold on the center line, trim the edges, and fold in half again. You will now have a handy dandy list the size of a traditional business card!
Bees by nature are corn-free creatures, and their honey and beeswax would be corn-free if they were left to their natural devices. I have spoken to beekeepers in my local area and have struck out where it comes to finding corn-free bees. However, I recently learned about a very cool group of people known as the Backwards Beekeepers (based in Los Angeles, California) who are interested in keeping bees – the natural way.
Out of hope for more people and groups like the Backwards Beekeepers, I’d like to put out a Call to Action, as I search for Corn-Free Honey, and Corn-Free Beeswax.
If you are a beekeeper who practices similar beekeeping methods to those of the Backwards Beekeepers (including healthy supplemental feeding), I want to connect! Specifically, I would like to know if you sell Corn-Free Honey and/or Beeswax. Do you sell in your local area, and, are you up to selling to areas that would require shipment?
As a beekeeper who sells Corn-Free Honey, or Corn-Free Beeswax, I will open the opportunity to list your business on The Corn-Free Guide. Many people like myself would like to know about you, and may be interested in buying – but we need help locating your corn-free goods!
To be listed in the Corn-Free Guide, please contact me and include the information below.
* Name:If you contact me with the above information, I will be in touch with you prior to listing your business in The Guide.
* Email Address:
* Business Name:
* City, State:
* Willing to ship outside your local area, within the US? (yes/no):
* Business site or blog URL:
* Do you ever feed your bees corn syrup? (yes/no):
And to those of you brave enough to practice Urban Beekeeping - I am in awe! Thank you for all the work that you are doing to provide bees with a natural safe habitat!
Image Credit: aussiegall
Abita Beer uses Louisiana sugar cane (instead of corn syrup) and does not use preservatives, additives, or stabilizers. All in all, it should be a relatively safe choice for those avoiding corn. Which is what made my situation a little confusing…
In the past I have successfully enjoyed Abita Turbodog Beer (no reaction) but didn’t get five minutes past the first sip of Abita Purple Haze before my eyelids began to swell. I even did a second test run a few days later (Purple Haze is very good beer, I had to be sure!) but indeed had another allergic reaction after just a few sips.
As it turns out, there is ascorbic acid in the Raspberry Puree that is added to Purple Haze. Bingo – that explained my allergic reaction. So what does this mean for Abita and a Corn-Free status? In my conversation with Abita I learned another place where corn may hide in beer production – something that Abita does NOT do. Often ascorbic acid is added during the final stage of beer bottling to act as an oxygen scavenger. The purpose of an oxygen scavenger is to consume the oxygen, allowing the beer to stay fresher longer as it travels to shopping store shelves and later to your refrigerator. Since Abita Beer does not add ascorbic acid to their beer, I have confidence that the majority of their beers will indeed be safe for those of us allergic to corn.
In the last few weeks I have tried another one of Abita’s beers, their Amber beer, and also returned to the safety of one of my all time favorites – Turbodog. Still reaction-free for those two beers. I have confidence that Abita brews good, pure beer, but I will stay away from their beers that contain added fruit such as Purple Haze, and their Strawberry Harvest.
For the time being, only Amber and Turbodog will be listed in The Guide, but others will be added as I learn they completely corn-free.
Since you may not be eager to give up honey entirely, it is important to know how and why it may be contaminated, so you can ask questions that may help you find corn-free honey!
Corn may extend it’s reach to honey either by directly being added to the end result, as an unlabeled ingredient in the form of HFCS, or because HFCS is sometimes fed directly to honey bees.
Have you ever heard of eating local honey to help with your allergies? The idea behind this theory is that the honey will contain bits of pollen and with continued exposure you may become less allergic. That’s not really a topic to discuss here, other then the correlation that the bee consumes the pollen, and traces of pollen result in the honey.
Pollen will not be the only food source for a honey bee, and other foods consumed by the bee will result in the honey, just as the pollen does. It is common practice to provide supplemental food options to keep the bees alive during times when their natural food source is scarce. The “seasons” will differ depending on location, but the end result is the same. The beekeeper may provide a sugar syrup to the bees, and this sugar syrup could be one of many types of sugar, including High Fructose Corn Syrup.
HoneyBeeWorld.com, a source of information for beekeepers, explains the various options for supplemental feeding for honey bees. BeeSource.com provides test results that show they were able to detect that bees fed HFCS produce honey with traces of HFCS present.
Now, how can we go about finding corn-free honey? The answer is similar to finding other corn-free products. You must know your source. Simply buying a jar of honey at the grocery store won’t tell you if there are traces of HFCS in the honey. The only way to know for sure if your honey is corn-free, is to talk to the beekeeper.
Find a Farmer’s Market in your area, and talk to the local honey producers. You will want to know what season the bees are receiving supplemental feeding, and, what food source is provided. Not all beekeepers approve of feeding HFCS to the bees (the test results on BeeSource.com show bees live shorter lives when fed HFCS!) so this is not a blanket rule of how things are done. It is however how the commercial, larger companies are run.
Even though you may be able to obtain “safe” honey locally, you will likely want to avoid Honey as a labeled ingredient in food packages. It is as much of a catch-all ingredient as “Natural Flavors.”
The last question that remains is, should beeswax be avoided for the same reason? If you are an active label reader (and with a corn allergy, you should be), you will know that the majority of readily available lip products contain beeswax. Whether you use lip balm, lip gloss, or lip stick – beeswax will likely be involved. To this question, I have no definitive answer. I was unable to find concrete information about corn appearing in beeswax, largely because I think this has not been tested.
It makes sense that if corn appears in the honey, it will in the beeswax as well. If you would like to avoid using beeswax, you may want to look for Vegan cosmetic products because if an item is considered Vegan, it will not contain any byproducts from animals or insects. Of course this will just help you in your search to find items that do not contain beeswax. You will still need to verify all other ingredients are corn-free.
I finally hit my breaking point last week. I needed cookies!
As you likely already know, with a corn-allergy, if you want corn-free cookies, you need to make them. I wasn’t in the mood for traditional chocolate chip, so I started searching around, and found a recipe for “Homemade Oreos.”
After making (and eating MANY) of these Oreo-like cookies, I knew I had to share this recipe. These cookies blow any concept of Oreo completely out of the water, so I don’t really want to call them by that name. They are chocolate sandwich cookies with a crispy wafer (though slightly chewy when fresh from the oven), with a vanilla buttercream frosting. Seriously, they are amazing!
Instead of just posting the recipe, I’ll go through the ingredients and explain the alterations needed to make it corn-free, and for other others like myself who are allergic to eggs, egg-free.
The main offenders in the ingredients that will contain corn are as follows:
- The baking powder – most commercial brands include corn starch as part of the baking powder ingredients
- Commercial egg replacers (if you need to substitute the egg)
- Powdered sugar – most brands include corn starch
- Salt – if it’s iodized, it will contain Dextrose
- And of course, be careful to read all the ingredients of everything you use. The recipe calls for unsalted butter but I used salted. The unsalted version of the same brand included “natural flavoring” – which may include corn, so it’s best to avoid that and go for the extra salt instead!
Okay, now for the most amazing chocolate cookie recipe ever:
- 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour (unbleached)
- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder (Hain brand or homemade)
- 1/4 tsp salt (non-iodized Sea Salt)
- 1 C sugar
- 1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg or Egg Replacer** (I used homemade egg replacer)
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.
- Beat in the butter and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
- Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart, and flatten with a spoon.
- Bake for 9 minutes at 375 F. Set on a rack to cool. (I was able to bake all the cookies in one go, using 2 pans. There were 3 spoons of batter left over, that by the way, were quite tasty…)
- 1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter (I used salted)
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I used Spectrum Vegetable Shortening from Palm Oil)
- 2 cups sifted powdered sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners brand or homemade)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.
- Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
Complete the Cookies
- Let the cookies cool completely before frosting. Or at least wait half an hour.
- To make a sandwich cookie, simply drop some cream filling onto one cookie with a pastry bag or Ziploc bag (cut a corner of the bag to create a makeshift pastry bag) and match up similarly sized cookies.
- Try not eat them all before you family has the opportunity to try them and be seriously impressed that YOU made these!
The chocolate cookies are of course, not only amazing, but very versatile. The next time we make homemade vanilla ice cream, I plan to make the chocolate wafers the day before, and then crumble them up and add them to the ice cream. Instant Cookies N’Cream! I also think the chocolate wafer recipe would work in place of a graham cracker pie crust if chocolate will work as the flavor (such as a cheesecake). And the buttercream frosting is my new favorite frosting, so that’s going in my recipe book dog-eared and bookmarked too.
I want to thank Stef at the Cupcake Project for sharing this recipe, and I hope you enjoy this recipe too!
I called Zyrtec today because it was pointed out to me they now have two formulations.
One formulation contains corn starch, one does not. Before I continue, here are the two formulations, both with the same active ingredient (Cetirizine HCl (10mg).
Inactive ingredients (without corn starch): Colloidal Silocon Dioxide, Croscarmellose Sodium, Hypromellose, Lactose Monohydrate, Magnesium Stearate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Polyethylene Glycol, Titanium Dioxide
And the alternate version of inactive ingredients:
Inactive ingredients (with corn starch): Carnauba Wax, Corn Starch, Hypromellose, Lactose Monohydrate, Magnesium Stearate, Polyethylene Glycol, Povidone, Titanium Dioxide
When I asked about the differing formulations, it was explained they now make a "corn-free formulation for those who are allergic". I was then asked if I was allergic to corn and explained that I yes, I am allergic to corn.
Here's the rest of the conversation:
Me: That's great you provide a corn-free formula. I'd like to ask about the source of some of the ingredients of the formula without corn starch.
Me: What is the source ingredient of the Magnesium Stearate?
Rep: It says here it is from a vegetable or plant source, NOT animal.
Me: Okay, what vegetable?
Rep: It doesn't say.
Me: So it could be corn.
Rep: This formula is corn free, you know that because there is no corn starch.
Me: Will the package state "corn-free"?
Rep: No, we cannot guarantee it is corn free, as we do not test for the presence of, nor absence of corn. But since there is no corn starch, you know it is corn free!
Me: Thank you for your time.
Again, that statement was, “We do not test for the presence of, nor absence of corn.” So I have to ask, what was the purpose of creating a secondary formulation just for their corn-allergic customers, if they do not know if it contains corn? Is an allergy to corn simply a marketing gimmick to them?
In case you have any doubt after reading this post, Zyrtec is not safe for you if you have an allergy to corn.
If you are familiar with what it means to have a Corn Allergy, you know how difficult it is to explain to others the many places corn is used in the Standard American Diet.
The Corn Free diet carries with it an enormous learning curve that includes months of devoted research, reaching out to others on forums and message boards, and making enormous lifestyle changes. All in effort to stop the frequency of which we accidentally poison ourselves with our allergen on a daily basis.
Do you ever wish you had a handy dandy tip sheet to provide family and friends? Something to make the explanation and discussions go a little easier?
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provides the best introduction to the Corn-Free diet of any I have ever seen. In three short pages you are provided; examples of items on a food label that contain corn (i.e. powdered sugar), suggested substitutions for items that contain corn (i.e. what to use instead of baking powder – which contains corn, and is included in their first list), and last but not least, a pretty inclusive food table. The food table, “What foods can my child eat?” addresses Foods Allowed, Foods to Avoid, and at a glance provides everyone in your life a two month jump on the learning curve of how to reduce our interaction with corn in our diet.
This Corn-Free tip sheet (PDF) is a must have. Download it, save it, send it to your immediate family. Know of someone who was recently diagnosed with a Corn Allergy? Send them this tip sheet, it will allow them to regain their health much faster.
*Note: like any and all other Corn Free and Corn Allergy documentation, it is not all-inclusive, but it's a great start!
Special thanks to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for providing this amazing resource!
Namaste Foods: Are the products really Corn Free?
Before we discuss Namaste Foods, we need to discuss the term Corn Free, and how it is used with regard to consumer products.
Sometimes a company will claim an item is Corn Free, because they think the finished product is free of corn, or “the corn protein has been removed.” For example, when I contacted Nature’s Sunshine about their Nutra-Calm, I was told:
“ … the Vitamin C ingredients are made from corn, but they do not contain any corn proteins and should not pose no risk to people with corn allergies”.
To be clear, that statement is not correct, and if an item is made from corn, those who are allergic should not consume it.
In other cases, corn is used in the processing or creation of an item. When that happens, the item may be claimed as corn free, when in fact there are remnants of corn because of the packaging.
And sometimes, companies are just confused. Edward & Sons has the following Special Diet Concerns information on their site:
“CORN & NUTS: There are many consumers who have serious allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, and all kinds of nuts. None of our products contain any nuts. We also do not use any corn or corn by-products in any of our products or in our facility at all.”
That’s a great statement to make, but given the Product Allergen Information chart also provide, which labels where corn IS used (14 items plus the forgotten item of their organic cornstarch), well, I don’t have anything to say really. They made my argument for me.
Now, back to my original question. Are Namaste Foods, Corn Free?
If you aren’t yet aware, when I use the term Corn Free, I use in the sense of typical consumer. That means, I expect the item to not have had any contact with corn, or corn-sourced ingredients. The wording on the Namaste Foods FAQ page is this:
“I am ordering your product but wondered about the XANTHAN GUM. Your ad says corn-free. Doesn't xanthan gum have corn in it or a by product?
Namaste Foods uses xanthan gum that is NOT derived from corn or corn sources. It is certified by the manufacturer to be free of all
carbohydrates including corn, wheat and soy.'”
It’s wonderful when companies provide full disclosure on their site, providing the source of the ingredients, but since Namaste Foods only mentions what Xanthan Gum doesn’t come from, they leave the question open as to what it does come from. I contacted them on May 30th with that very simple question. I asked them the source of their Xanthan Gum.
This is part of the Namaste Foods response:
“Namaste Foods uses xanthan gum that is not derived from a corn or corn sources. It is certified by the manufacturer to be free of all carbohydrates including corn, wheat and soy. Xanthan gum is traditionally grown on a carbohydrate source however after all the processes are complete there is no residue of the source left. It is also certified by third party agencies.”
The response goes on to mention they’ve never received a complaint from anyone who has a corn allergy, and lists their products that do not contain Xanthan Gum.
The missing part to this exchange, was the answer to my question.
Since part of the response states again, their Xanthan Gum does not come from corn, I replied, and asked if the Xanthan Gum comes from Wheat or Soy.
“This question comes up a lot but after consulting with our owner
I cannot give you more specifics. I have given you the most accurate information I possibly can and if you or your readers still have doubts, it is best to avoid our products. You may wish to consult a food science lab if you would like more technical information regarding how xanthan gum is processed and what implications there may or may not be for people with food allergies. As I have said- no one has come forward that has had any problems with our products due to the corn issue.”
Still no answer. However, Wikipedia does a great job of answering the question about Xanthan Gum and it’s source.
“Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.”
Namaste Foods is unable, or unwilling, to provide the source of their Xanthan Gum. I have previously recommended them as a corn free food, but I will no longer do so. Instead, I recommend anyone with a corn allergy (or soy, or wheat) to avoid their products unless they are able to tell you the source of their Xanthan Gum.
A few weeks ago I wrote about A Typical American Day…with Corn, thinking it would be the best way to demonstrate how prolific corn is in our everyday lives. What I didn’t realize, was that Corn Products International is actually very open about all the places corn has been integrated into our society.
For example, I thought it was almost a secret that corn is used in beer production. Von (of Corn-Free Foods & Products List) demonstrated that although it is sometimes easy to determine if a beer contains corn, that isn’t always the case. As she investigated further with Sierra Nevada, it was all about asking the right questions. This post of hers is a great example of how important it is to know more about the manufacturing process involved, regarding the food you are inquiring about. It is necessary to ask specific questions – to get that desired “corn free” or unfortunate “contains corn derived ingredients” response.
Back to my initial point, Corn Products International displays in their marketing literature, that corn is used everywhere.
“Corn Products International takes a kernel of corn and unleashes a variety of ingredients that act as building blocks for literally thousands of consumer and industrial products.”
Personally, I like their word choice “unleashes a variety of ingredients” – it feels quite appropriate. Their Product & Services page and Industries Served page display all the many places you can find corn. What they don’t explain though, is the extent that their footprint reaches. As of this point in time, I do not know of any commercially available, corn free shampoo, conditioner, deodorant (with antiperspirant), or multi-vitamin.
Whether you are a fan of abundant uses of corn for eco-friendly reasons, or against it for allergy reasons – one thing is clear. Corn is everywhere, we know that – and it is hidden. Corn is hidden in “Natural Flavors,” or simply used in the manufacturing processes either in the creation of, or packing of various items.
Though Corn Products International is happy to declare corn-derived “Dextrose is used in intravenous fluids, pharmaceutical applications, vitamins, amino acids and alcohols” they do not label these items as “contains corn” and put those with a corn allergy in a position of serious health risk. Even for those with a mild allergy to corn, it can be incredibly dangerous to receive their allergen directly, intravenously!
Are you aware of the FDA Petition addressing this issue? If you have not yet signed this petition, please take a minute now and sign. Tell the FDA: Corn Needs to be Included in Food Allergen Labeling. After you sign, please share the petition on your Facebook and Twitter pages too.
If you would like to help even more, please consider donating a few dollars to help advertise this petition. Your dollars can help make sure more people see, and sign, this petition. There is a PayPal Donate button in the top right sidebar of Live Corn Free, just for this purpose. Your help and effort is greatly appreciated!
First, to anyone new to the Corn Allergy world, let me explain where the problem usually is with chewing gum.
For my ingredient example, I am using my all time favorite (and much missed by me): Orbit Sweet Mint Gum.
*Sorbitol, Gum Base, Glycerol, *Mannitol, *Natural and Artificial Flavors, Less Than 2% of: *Xylitol, Aspartame, Acesulfame K, *Sucralose, Soy Lecithin, Bht (to Maintain Freshness), Colors (Blue 1 Lake, Beta Carotene). Phenylketonurics: Contains PhenylalanineTo make it easy, I gave an asterisk (*) to the ingredients where corn is likely to be found. If you need a refresher as to where these ingredients come from, and how they relate to corn, please see the Ingredients Derived From Corn – What to Avoid post. Bottom line, the corn derived ingredients tend to be in the artificial sweeteners. It may be in the Gum Base as well, but that would require contacting the manufacture to find out definitively.
Now, let me share with you my discovery of B-Fresh Gum. I was researching something else corn-related, and came across someone's post about this gum in a forum. It was not a food allergy forum, and sadly, I cannot recall which forum as I really got too excited about the potential of this news!
The first thing while exploring this information, was look at the ingredients of the B-Fresh Gum (Spearmint).
Ingredients: Xylitol, Gum Base, Natural Spearmint Flavor, Vitamin B12, Gum Arabic, Carnuba Wax, Calcium Citrate, Calcium GluconateThe ingredient list definitely has some questionable items that could be derived from corn. However, there is mention of this on their FAQ page.
Question: Does the product contain any corn?After reading the corn free claim, I called B-Fresh Gum anyway, just to discuss this with them further. I felt silly, I mean after all, the answer in their FAQ is pretty clear - “no ingredients derived from corn.” For good measure, I inquired as to the source of their Xylitol. The Xylitol they use is from “Birch and other hardwood (tree) sources”.
Answer: There are no ingredients used that are derived from corn.
In summary, if you are looking for corn free chewing gum, you may find it at B-Fresh Gum. Keep in mind, the FDA does not regulate the term corn free, and there may be corn sourced ingredients used in manufacturing, processing or delivery of this product, even unaware to the company making the claim.
B-Fresh Gum states they are Kosher, Vegan, Gluten Free, Soy Free, and Diabetic Safe. Please contact them directly if you have any questions about any of those claims.
Sadly, the term Organic can mean many things – since the term itself is not federally mandated. As I began to prepare this post I did more reading about the term and definition of Organic, but do keep in mind, nowhere does Avalon Organics state they have Organic Certification. With that in mind, it doesn't seem important to provide the definition of what that means. Instead, this particular Case Study is about... Marketing.
Let's take a look.
Organic Case Study #1 - Avalon Organics
Did you read that paragraph closely? Consciousness in Cosmetics. That is an interesting term. Avalon goes on to explain Consciousness in Cosmetics is the guiding principle behind everything we do at Avalon Organics.
It's in our name: Avalon Organics. We're dedicated to the expansion of organic agriculture and endeavor to select organic ingredients for our products to support the highest ideals of sustainable, organic agriculture, a cleaner environment and good health. Our devotion to Consciousness in Cosmetics defines an unwavering commitment: To create an extraordinary, unprecedented range of products that are inherently pure and safe while expanding the efficacy and vibrantly healthy benefits of natural body care. We honor you with Consciousness in Cosmetics. Take the time to honor yourself.
On May 8th, 2010 I sent Avalon Organics a message using the contact form on their website. This is the message I sent them:
I have seen a few of your products listed on allergy sites as "corn free" and was hoping I could obtain a list of your corn free products. I am interested in finding products that are 100% corn free, meaning the the source ingredients as well (i.e. corn free Vitamin E, citric acid, etc).
Do you have such a list of corn free products?
I look forward to hearing from you.
On May 10th, I received a reply – that became an inspiration to have Case Studies here on Live Corn Free.
Dear Ms. Rosen,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Avalon Product. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and appreciate your patronage.
Our plant-based formulations come from a variety of sources and combinations of derivatives and we do not screen our products for traces of corn. Therefore, we cannot specifically guarantee that any of our products are corn-free.
Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM - 5PM Mountain Time.
Consumer Relations Representative
Ref # 2068992
Now, go back and re-read the first paragraph from the "About Us" section. Do you see the phrase "pure and safe"? Now re-read their message to me.
I am posting this as a discussion topic. Rather than tell you my thoughts, I want to hear yours. As a consumer, how does this make you feel? Is this a brand you trust, or did you trust them before? Would you trust them now?
I will leave you with this one thought of mine. If they don't know what's in their product, why would you trust them?
In the documentary King Corn, the filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney are introduced to Professor Stephen Macko, and his methods for hair analysis. Cheney has a sample of hair tested, and the results are astonishing, as Cheney learns his hair shows how corn dominates his diet.
For real world comparison, join me on a walk through the day of a typical American female. She’s in her mid-30’s and strives to eat a healthy, well balanced diet, as well as interact with as few chemicals as possible. For sake of example, this woman’s name is Susie.
Susie awakens in the morning, brushes her teeth, uses mouthwash, and hops in the shower. While in the shower, she uses shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. After showering, she uses her allergy nasal spray, and pops her daily allergy pill and multi-vitamin as she begins to brew her coffee.
Total interactions with corn before breakfast? Eight items, some with multiple corn-based ingredients. Let’s take a closer look…
Items below show their corn based ingredients, and then brand name for a concrete example:
- Toothpaste: Sorbitol and Sodium Saccharin - Colgate Total 12 Hour Multi-Protection Toothpaste
- Mouthwash: Sorbitol and Sodium Saccharin – Listerine
- Shampoo: Citric Acid - Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo
- Conditioner: Citric Acid – Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner
- Body Wash: – Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid – Burt’s Bees Milk & Shea Butter Body Wash
- Nasal Allergy Spray: Dextrose – Flonase
- Daily Allergy Pill: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate - Zyrtec
- Daily Multi-Vitamin: Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Starch, Tocopherol, and a whole bunch of FD&C coloring - One-A-Day Women's Formula Vitamins
She’s in a hurry and decides to skip breakfast, taking yogurt with her as a snack for later instead. She grabs a yogurt, her favorite – Yoplait Whips – and packs up her things. The corn in that last minute grab includes the ever popular High Fructose Corn Syrup, along with Modified Corn Starch. This is another +1 for corn.
Susie is now really running late for work, and quickly applies some light makeup consisting of face powder, blush, and a light lip tint. Each of the facial powders contain corn starch, and the lip tint? Well she went with Burt’s Bees, which means she’ll be licking corn off her lips in the form of corn based Tocopherol. The makeup session gave us a +3 for corn.
Where are we now? Oh yes, we’re up to 13 interactions with corn and it’s first thing in the morning.
Let’s speed this up a bit. Susie goes to work, eats her yogurt in the car (we already counted that), and realizes she didn’t bring enough of a snack. When she gets to work, she goes for her emergency stash of Ritz crackers she keeps at her desk. This point went yet again to High Fructose Corn Syrup, who is definitely in the lead is this match.
For lunch, Susie grabs a salad from the cafeteria, and chooses a Fat Free Ranch dressing (complete with Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Tocopheryl Acetate). For our example, we can use Wish Bone.
She also purchases a sandwich to eat back at her desk – a turkey and cheese sandwich. Since most lunch meats are injected with Dextrose, she would have consumed this unless she happened to be eating organic meat. Given she’s at an office cafeteria, those odds are low. The last thing she grabs to include with her salad and sandwich, is a Vlasic Kosher Dill pickle, which is packaged in Polysorbate 80. And lastly, she finishes her lunch with some chewing gum to freshen her breath, Trident White, because it is sugar free, and helps to whiten teeth. She may be whitening her teeth, but she’s also consuming Sorbitol, and Mannitol. And to answer the unasked, but well researched question – no, there are no chewing gums available for purchase in the US that are 100% corn free. Glee Gum almost makes that cut, but doesn’t.
Later in the day Susie goes to a friend’s house for dinner. The friend prepared chicken, with side dishes of vegetables and rice. The chicken was seasoned with seasoned salt (yep, more corn, in the form of corn starch), the vegetables were pre-sweetened with sauce in the package (just read the label of ANY frozen vegetables with a sauce for this example), and the rice “fortified”.
The current tally? 20 interactions with corn, even though it wasn’t on the menu. Add in some dessert such as ice cream or cookies, and that number likely just went up to 21. Oh, wait, Susie got a headache, and took some Tylenol (Corn Starch, Magnesium Stearate, Powdered Cellulose), and washed it down with a Diet Coke. Now we’re up to 23.
Poor Susie… she really tries to eat healthy and limit her interactions with chemicals as much as possible. However, she has allergies, asthma, and eczema for which her doctors give her medicine to “control” her conditions. Her asthma inhaler is Proventil, which uses ethanol derived from corn. When her asthma or eczema really act up, her doctor will prescribe Prednisone to help her “break the cycle.” Prednisone contains several types of corn based ingredients including; microcrystalline cellulose, polysorbate 80, and saccharin sodium.
What’s really wrong with our “typical” example here? Susie has an undiagnosed Corn Allergy, because her doctors treat her Asthma and Eczema as dead-end conditions with no cause. The very medications she is prescribed to “help” those conditions actually continue to make them worse – because they contain her allergens. Since the amount of ingredients that may be derived from corn is so lengthy, unless a person suspects they have a corn allergy, or is tested specifically for one – it remains undiagnosed. Even with an “elimination” diet (avoiding all corn), it is very difficult to reach that 100% corn free state. It seems almost magically unreachable given the reaches of corn in America.
If you or someone you know has an allergy to corn – it’s time to speak up. There is a problem in this country, and it goes by the name of corn.
However, for individuals who experience headaches, eczema, or hives, those symptoms may not appear right away. In fact, some food allergies will not appear in a reaction until up to two days after consuming the food.
Food allergy testing is recommended, but the recommendation comes with also using a food diary. Why? Allergy testing is not 100% reliable. There are false positives, as well as false negatives. Some doctors claim skin testing is more reliable, others claim blood testing is the way to go.
What can you do? You can do both. Follow your doctor’s advice to get the appropriate testing, but start using a food diary right away.
Food Diary Step #1 – Journal for Analysis
The trick with using a food diary, is to use it as though someone else will be reading and interpreting the results. When you need to look back at entries that are two months old, your details will not only be helpful, they’ll be crucial. If you note you had a veggie sandwich with water for lunch, that raises more questions than it provides answers. Which veggies? Which bread, what brand? What condiments were consumed? Start thinking like a detective.
Food Diary Step #2 – Consume Fewer Ingredients
In my pre-allergy days, I would say I likely consumed more than 200 ingredients in any given day – easily. That number sounds shocking, until you start reading labels.
Here is an example of a typical lunch for me, in my pre-allergy days:
- MorningStar Farms Mushroom Lover’s Burger
- On Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
- with Provolone Cheese
- with Mustard
- with water to drink
MorningStar Farms Mushroom Lover’s Burger Ingredients:
TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, WATER FOR HYDRATION), BUTTON MUSHROOMS, ONION, PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS, CORN OIL, EGG WHITES, SWEET RED PEPPER, GARLIC PUREE (GARLIC, WATER, NATURAL FLAVOR, CITRIC ACID), CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF BALSAMIC VINEGAR, SPICES, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH, METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, MALTODEXTRIN, MUSHROOM POWDER, HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (CORN GLUTEN, SOY PROTEIN, WHEAT GLUTEN), CARAMEL COLOR, DRIED YEAST, NATURAL FLAVORS FROM NON-MEAT SOURCES, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, NONFAT DRY MILK, GUM ARABIC, CITRIC ACID.
Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread Ingredients:
UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, HONEY, SUGAR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, RYE FLOUR, WHEAT BRAN, YEAST, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: WHEAT GLUTEN, SALT, SOYBEAN OIL, VINEGAR, CULTURED WHEAT FLOUR, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, CALCIUM STEAROYL-2-LACTYLATE, MONOGLYCERIDES AND/OR DIGLYCERIDES, CALCIUM PEROXIDE, CALCIUM IODATE, DATEM, ETHOXYLATED MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, AZODICARBONAMIDE), YEAST FOOD (AMMONIUM SULFATE) , MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM SULFATE, ENZYMES, SOY FLOUR, SOY LECITHIN.
I could go on with the cheese and the mustard ingredients from this example, but I think I made my point (hint: there is more in cheese than just “cheese”). Add in two more meals, side dishes, and what do you have? You have a nightmare! Eating organic is not just a fad, it can also dramatically reduce the number of ingredients you consume.
Food Diary Step #3 – Track Your Symptoms
Along with noting what you eat, you need to note how you feel. That can be tough if you have vague feelings of being unwell, but you can simplify this by even noting days you feel okay, better than okay, or less than okay. Time will help you sort out the details, but you DO need those details! Of course, if you have more specific things that occur such as hives, if you can note the time you began to react, that will be very helpful information.
Where and how you create your food diary is up to you. I would recommend that if you use pen and paper, you later input the information into a computerized format. It’s too difficult to search through paper, but on the computer you can use “find” functions to look for specific items. I tried many different food allergy tracking tools, but I ended up using an application called HandBase for the iPhone ($9.99). Once a week I then exported the database to Microsoft Excel so I could view, analyze, and theorize. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it worked for me.
What about you? Do you have Food Dairy tips to share?
I was amazed to learn recently that the seemingly innocent term “biodegradable packaging” can be a sign that an allergen is involved.
Enter today’s example: Mighty Leaf Tea uses Biodegradable and Green Packaging.
I now know that “biodegradable packaging” is a tip-off for what is most likely, corn.
Mighty Leaf Tea Awarded Best New Packaging at SCAA Show - April 11, 2006 (San Rafael, CA) — Mighty Leaf Tea continues to forge a new path in the specialty tea category as the Specialty Coffee Association of America awarded them “Best New Packaging” for their new biodegradable tea pouches. Made of polylactic corn that is GMO-free, the new silken biodegradable pouches show off the tea leaves even more than the original silken mesh pouches did. Once the tea pouch has been wet, it will begin its course of biodegrading, which takes about a year.
Lucky me, I happen to have a box of Mighty Leaf Tea, Organic African Nectar in my kitchen. What does the box say about the use of corn? The box simply states, “15 individually cello-wrapped biodegradable pouches.” That’s it. Where is the mention of corn on the box?
Be an informed consumer. When you see the words biodegradable packaging, research the nature. You will find this term now in use (along with possible use of corn) in many of the following items:
- Tea Bags
- Coffee Filters
- Disposable Plates
- Disposable Utensils
- Paper Cups (now, lined with corn!)
What can you do about this? For starters, you can avoid using disposable products when there is an alternative option. When drinking loose leaf tea, I use a Finum Brewing Basket, which reduces waste (the reason I purchased it) by avoiding the use of tea bags, and is made with stainless steel mesh and plastic. My husband and I each have one and highly recommend them. I am currently researching permanent coffee filters and will be replacing our use of paper filters there as well.
Do you know of other brands who openly state their use of corn? Please comment and let me know!
Jessica David of Conveying Health and Wellness, has launched a campaign to increase awareness of High Fructose Corn Syrup found in food.
Whether you avoid HFCS by choice, or food allergy, the Facebook page Jessica created is an excellent way to discuss food challenges and label findings with others seeking out the same information.
Take the HFCS-FREE Challenge and be sure to check out all aspects of this Facebook page! There are active discussions, photo albums (“Buy This Not That”) and plenty of opportunities to help each other along the way. The photos include pictures of labels along with discussions about the ingredients found. In other words, it’s brilliant!
The official challenge will run 6 weeks, April 19 – May 31, 2010, but this is a great resource that doesn’t expire – so feel free to join in any time!
Thank you Jessica for creating this fantastic resource!
As it turns out, there are a few hundred ingredients that fall under the classification is, or can be, derived from corn. This information is not to scare you, but to help you be an informed consumer, and hopefully help you avoid those pesky corn based ingredients.
Let’s review the usual suspects:
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Baking Powder (corn starch)
- Brown Sugar – look for use of Caramel color. Domino’s Brown sugar no longer uses Caramel color
- Calcium Citrate - the calcium salt of citric acid. See Citrate below for details.
- Caramel – coloring used in soft drinks, derived from corn “or cane sugar.” The “or” in Coca-Cola's explanation refers to a temporary change to make the ingredients Kosher for Passover. The rest of the year, it is from corn.
- Cellulose, Vegetable, Powered, etc.
- Citrate - can refer either to the conjugate base of citric acid, or to the esters of citric acid. An example of the former, a salt is trisodium citrate; an ester is triethyl citrate. Forms of Citrate include: Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, and more.
- Citric Acid - the source sugar is corn steep liquor along with hydrolyzed corn starch
- Corn Meal – items baked sitting on Corn Meal such as Bagels, Breads or Pizza, may not list Corn Meal as an ingredient
- Corn Starch – in most over the counter medicines that come in a dry pill form. Yes, this includes Benedryl too. Watch for Corn Syrup in the liquid forms.
- Corn Syrup
- Decyl Glucoside - used in personal care products such as shampoo. It is produced by the reaction of glucose from corn starch with the fatty alcohol decanol which is derived from coconut.
- Dextrin, Maltodextrin – thickening agents found in sauces (check those frozen veggies!) salad dressings, and ice cream
- Dextrose (glucose) – corn sugar, found in cookies, ice cream, and paired with glucose in hospital IVs unless specified not to! Can also be used as a carrier with anesthetic shots such as Lidocaine and Novocaine! Dextrose is also injected into meat, lunch meats and deli cuts. Be weary of “honey baked” items, the sweet flavor may not be from honey.
- Ethanol - made by fermenting sugars produced from corn starch.
- Ferrous Gluconate - i.e. as found in canned olives, and comes from corn or potato acid.
- Flavoring - Artificial or "Natural Flavors" - as defined by the FDA regulations of labeling of spices, flavorings, and colorings.
- Golden Syrup - Sometimes recommended as an alternate to Corn Syrup, but it may contain Corn Syrup as well.
- Honey - May contain corn syrup, as HFCS is sometimes fed to bees, resulting in corn in the honey produced.
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
- Iodized Salt – Morton’s FAQ explains why they add Dextrose (corn) to their salt.
- Lactic Acid - Commercially, lactic acid can be made synthetically from chemicals or organically as a byproduct of corn fermentation.
- Lauryl Glucoside - is a surfactant used in cosmetics. It is a glycoside produced from glucose and lauryl alcohol.
- Magnesium Citrate - Magnesium salt of citric acid.
- Magnesium Stearate
- Malic Acid
- Malt Flavoring
- Maltitol - (also known as Maltisorb and Maltisweet) Commercially, maltitol is a disaccharide produced by Corn Products Specialty Ingredients (formerly SPI Polyols), Cargill, Roquette, and Towa, among other companies. Maltitol is made by hydrogenation of maltose obtained from starch.
- Mannitol - A naturally occurring alcohol that is often combined with corn derived sugars. Here is the link on USDA's website explaining this practice.
- Methyl Gluceth - an emollient used in cosmetics manufactured from corn sugar and corn starch.
- Modified Food Starch
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) - The MSGMyth site explains MSG is made from corn.
- Polydextrose - is synthesized from dextrose, and contains sorbitol and citric acid. It is a food ingredient classified as soluble fiber and is frequently used to increase the non-dietary fiber content of food, replace sugar, reduce calories and reduce fat content. Note: Dextrose, Sorbitol, and Citric Acid are all on this list of ingredients derived from corn.
- Polylactic Acid (PLA) - Plastic made from corn starch (U.S.) or sugarcane.
- Polysorbates (i.e. Polysorbate 80) - Polysorbates are oily liquids derived from PEG-ylated sorbitan (a derivative of sorbitol) esterified with fatty acids.
- Potassium Citrate - See Citrate above for details.
- Powdered Sugar - contains corn starch
- Saccharin – in powder form IS Sweet’N Low and therefore contains Dextrose.
- Sodium Citrate - See Citrate above for details.
- Sodium Erythorbate - is produced from sugars derived from sources such as beets, sugar cane and corn. It is a food additive used predominantly in meats, poultry, and soft drinks.
- Sodium Starch Glycolate - is the sodium salt of a carboxymethyl ether of starch. It can be derived from any starch source (rice, corn, potatoes, etc).
- Sorbitan - is a mixture of chemical compounds derived from the dehydration of sorbitol.
- Sorbitan Monostearate - an ester of sorbitol and stearic acid. You will see this ingredient used in Yeast (and possibly other places as well).
- Sorbitol – You will find Sorbitol in Sugar Free items such as candy, chewing gum, cosmetics, mouth wash, and toothpaste
- Starch – often this is corn starch unless it specifies something else, like potato starch
- Sucralose - Sucralose by itself may be corn free, though it is likely one best to avoid. Repackaged as the brand Splenda, it will contain dextrose and/or maltodextrin.
- Sweet’N Low – contains Dextrose, and according to Sweet’N Low, ALL sugar substitutes in powder form contain Dextrose.
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
- Vanilla Extract – most brands will have corn syrup, though you can find organic brands that do not, though the alcohol may be corn-derived.
- Vinegar, Distilled White - can be made from any sugar, but the most common method is to use corn that has been converted from starch into sugar.
- Vitamins - Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and Vitamin E (Tocopherols). Use caution with products that are "enriched" with added vitamins. The vitamins may be corn-derived, or corn-derivatives may be used in the binding (if solid) or suspension (if liquid) of the vitamin compound.
- Xanthan Gum - a food additive that is used as a thickening agent. It is found in sauces, spices, and commonly in Gluten Free foods. Xanthan Gum is most often grown on corn, or corn sugars. If an item includes Xanthan Gum and states it is corn-free, call the manufacturing company and inquire as to the source of Xanthan Gum to be sure.
- Xylitol - You will find Xylitol in Sugar Free items such as candy, chewing gum, cosmetics, mouth wash, and toothpaste
- Zein – used in time-release medications, derived from Maize
This list is not all inclusive of ingredients to avoid. Tip offs can be the generic use of ingredients without specifying their nature, for example: “natural” flavor, vegetable (which vegetable?), starch (which starch?), syrup, and so on.
Update 6/16/10: This page now has it's own "Tiny URL" so you can easily pass it along, or remember how to find it. Here is the shortcut URL: http://go.livecornfree.com/list
Sources: Jenny Connors’ Corn Allergen List, Ephraim Vishniac’s list of Corn-derived ingredients to avoid, and Wikipedia
- Keep a Food Diary - Future posts will include food diary tips and tricks
- Include a Symptom Tracker in your Food Diary
- Read Labels
- Get Allergy Testing
Some doctors say the blood tests are more accurate than the skin prick tests, some doctors say the reverse. When I had allergy testing done I had a wide range of tests that did not include corn! Be sure to find out before the testing is done, exactly what will be tested so you will not have to go through any procedures more than once.