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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Case Study #2 – Namaste Foods

Namaste Foods Logo

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?

Namaste Foods Allergy Claim

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.

6 comments:

  1. So frustrating! I can't even get Daiya to write back re their xanthan gum. They have a display at whole foods claiming they're corn free but xanthan gum is an ingredient. I emailed them my question, never got a response, but started getting unsolicited marketing materials from them. Sigh.

    My daughter us allergic to wheat, soy, oats, corn, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and grapes. Corn has been very hard to avoid, I am still learning. Thank you for your site!

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  2. I've been wondering about Daiya. I've heard about them on the Delphi forum but haven't seen any actual packages of it yet. When you find out about their Xanthan Gum, I'd love to know!!

    I'm glad you find the site useful ;-) Avoiding corn is indeed very tricky!

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  3. This saddens me. I LOVE the Namaste products. I'll still use them. (we've NEVER had a reaction and when I first started eliminating corn from my sons diet we pretty much lived on their stuff) But it's sad that they won't give a direct answer. I wonder if perhaps they change sources often and thus won't say because it is only going to change? I know a lot of companies do that.

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  4. I get so upset by these types of responses. They are so insulting when there is no reason to be. I try to rely on as few packaged products as possible so that I don't have to deal with these companies. I have learned to distrust the answers I am given, anyway. I just avoid any product with a single questionable ingredients and some just because of the brand name.

    I started out making everything from scratch since I didn't have any specialty products available locally. Now I can whip out baked goods so fast a mix would only slow me down.

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  5. If my husband didn't cook, I'd starve. I always hated cooking, and that was "before"... when cooking was much less of a hassle than it is now.

    I struggle with Corn Free baking, but that's mostly because I'm Egg Allergic too. I just can't seem to make anything properly with egg substitutes.

    As far as Namaste Foods, I go out of my way to support small companies who are friendly to the allergy community. But I don't understand their reluctance to provide this information and the only thing to ever assume is that a food is NOT safe. Assuming a food IS safe just gets us sick :(

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  6. Interesting, I have had a corn reaction twice in the last 2 days and I cannot identify anything else but the two Namaste products I ate. Frustrating!

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