Are you looking for the Master List of Ingredients to Avoid? It can be found here: http://go.livecornfree.com/list

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mind Your Beeswax: Corn's Hold on Honey

Honey If you have swapped out Honey in exchange for artificial sweeteners in an attempt to avoid corn derivates, you may still be consuming corn.

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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Buttercream Filling (Corn-Free & Egg-Free!)

Homemade Better-Than-Oreos 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!

The baking powder and powdered sugar can be found in ready-made brands that are corn-free. However, if you are unable to find the specific brands, these are items you can make yourself.

Okay, now for the most amazing chocolate cookie recipe ever:

Chocolate Wafer

  • 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)
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. Beat in the butter and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart, and flatten with a spoon.
  4. 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…)

Buttercream Filling

  1. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.
  2. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

Complete the Cookies

  1. Let the cookies cool completely before frosting. Or at least wait half an hour.
  2. 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.
  3. Try not eat them all before you family has the opportunity to try them and be seriously impressed that YOU made these!

More Thoughts

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!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Case Study #3 – Zyrtec

Zyrtec

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.

Rep: Okay.

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.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Corn-Free Diet ~ Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Childrens Healtcare of Atlanta LogoIf 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!

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.

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