Category: Lifestyle

Barbecue Season: Grilling Out Corn Free

It’s grilling season. Even if you don’t have safe meat or don’t eat meat, all *kinds* of other foods are delicious when cooked over charcoal.

Wait, I have to worry about corn when I grill out?  Even if I’m not cooking any food with corn in it?

But of course.

  • Propane: The gas itself is corn-free, but the distinctive rotten egg odor added to it is from ethyl mercaptan which is typically sourced from corn. I personally don’t have a lot of concerns about reacting to the fumes in a well ventilated area, or about food cooked over it in a pan, but wouldn’t want to be in an enclosed room with it, and wouldn’t want to eat food that was on a grill directly over it with a closed grill top.
  • Charcoal Briquettes: Briquettes are bound into shape using a starch, often corn but sometimes wheat, potato, or rice as well. Less sensitive people may be fine with being near or even cooking over corny charcoal as long as the food doesn’t touch it directly, but I personally can’t even be around it let alone eat food that was cooked over it.
  • Charcoal lighter fluid: Often contains ethanol from corn. And also smells terrible even if you aren’t allergic.
  • Grill and utensils: If cast-iron, can be pre-seasoned with a problematic oil. Corn oil is rarely used in pre-seasoned cast iron, however soy oil is very common, and even for those who are not soy allergic, many pressed vegetable oils contain citric acid as degummers and other contaminants that will be problematic for a corn allergy.
  • Grill and utensils: Can be cross contaminated. This is a big concern only for the truly sensitive. I discovered through experimentation that if I carefully clean a grill that has previously had corny charcoal burned in it, I can handle meat cooked over lump charcoal with the lid open. If, however, I close the lid and let the smoke infuse through the meat, I react to the meat. Somehow residue from the old allergens cooked in the grill remain even after I scrub and cook into the meat. Same with my oven. If I use a brand new grill with the same charcoal and close the lid, I’m fine. Porous foods get corned even with the lid open. Again, you probably have to be crazy sensitive to worry about this, but I know first hand that it is possible.

 What do I use instead?

Since some briquettes are bound using non-corn starches, you *could* research a brand that uses one of the alternative starches. However, they could change their source or formula at any time. I prefer to avoid binders entirely and use  lump charcoal that is only made from wood, no fillers. Check my product list to see which brands I am using safely. Note that some brands of lump charcoal are extremely poor quality and people have found things like carpenter’s nails in them because they are made from scrap wood. Check online reviews before you purchase a brand and make sure that it’s a high quality product.

Lump charcoal is far more temperamental to light and keep lit than briquettes. That’s why people use briquettes. To get it lit without lighter fluid, I use an electric charcoal starter. You pile the coals over it and plug the starter in, and the coals light in a relatively short time. Because the charcoal isn’t infused with the natural tinder of corn starch, a quality grill that retains heat well and allows for good airflow is important. I got a cheapo grill that had great reviews on Amazon and have found that my lump charcoal doesn’t seem to want to stay lit in it, so will probably need to upgrade. Our  more expensive but corny grill has no such problems with the same charcoal, so I do know that it is the grill causing the issue not the fuel.

Are All Lump Charcoals Safe?

Probably not. The issues I would be concerned about are:

  1. Quality control
  2. Packaging

Typically lump charcoal “should” be just fired wood, but depending on the source of the wood lots of other stuff could end up in there. Check out this FAQ about lump charcoal. 

“Since making lump charcoal is often done under somewhat crude conditions, it is normal to find a few rocks or pebbles in lump charcoal. However, a few other oddball items have been found like a mouse, human hair, a tootsie roll wrapper, varnished wood, and black shiny objects commonly referred to as moon rocks. Personally, in over two years and hundreds of pounds of lump charcoal, I’ve found 3 rocks and a tootsie roll wrapper. It shouldn’t be a great concern.”

Even if one isn’t concerned about allergens, that’s just kind of gross.

Then after that, it could be possible that the facilities are shared with something allergenic or whether the bags might be dusted with corn starch or made out of plant fiber or lined with corn plastic (PLA).

One could call and ask about all of these things, but I just guinea pigged the Royal Oak and it’s been okay, so I stick with it.

Cross Contamination

Barbecues are often chaotic. People are usually milling about,  moving dishes around and touching things constantly. If you are preparing both safe, and non-safe food, keep a close eye on what food is touching what utensils and surfaces and don’t let your corn free food come into contact with those things. Probably set yourself up a completely separate prep  and staging surface for your food, and consider using a separate grill top if not an entirely separate grill for the corn-free food.

I actually have to use a brand new corn-free grill, as I am so sensitive to cross contamination and traces that  corny foods cooked in an enclosed space like an oven or closed-top grill will stick to the walls in such a way that they contaminate other foods cooked in it. When I cleaned our grill top and tried to cook food on our old grill that had had the cornstarch-charcoal cooked in it, I was able to eat something that had been cooked for just a few minutes with the lid open, but reacted to a mushroom cooked for a long time with the lid closed.

Wash your hands frequently and keep an eye on your guests and family members, especially if they are drinking alcohol. One friend of mine that doesn’t really know much about my allergies constantly tries to “help” and ends up touching things he really shouldn’t with cross contaminated hands.  Another friend was standing near my “safe” grill and absentmindedly put some corny trash into my burning coals.  It was just the end of a hand-rolled cigarette (corn in the adhesive) and not enough to affect my food, but it could have been something much bigger.  Another dear friend is usually VERY careful about cross contamination, and after a couple of beers walked up to my safe grill and stared at the rack of short ribs roasting on it, then reached out and POKED IT WITH HIS FINGER. I think lasers probably shot out of my eyes, because as soon as he did it, he took three steps back and went, “Oh DUDE, I am SO SORRY.”  The rib was fine BTW, as he’d just washed his hands before doing that and had only touched his relatively clean beer bottle with his other hand.

Tips on Saving Money at the Farmer’s Market

Eating the way I have to is expensive, and I don’t have any choice but to find a way to afford it. I am financially lucky compared to many, and I still have a difficult time affording it. Over the summer as I’ve been stockpiling food for the winter, I’ve found a few ways to cut costs and thought I would pass on what I’ve learned.

  • Ask about buying large quantities. Farmers will often cut you significant deals if you are buying a 25lb box instead of just a couple of pounds. Of course you’ll have to find ways to preserve and store that quantity.
  • Show up late in the day for discounts on items that the farmers don’t want to pack home. Showing up late may cause you to lose out on the fast-selling items though, so be aware of that before you make this decision.
  • Ask about the “seconds” or the “uglies.” These are items that are physically blemished but often perfectly edible. Often these are not out for display and are kept under or behind the counter somewhere.
  • See if you can work out a trade. I have had more than one vendor tell me that if I showed up early to help them unload the truck, he’d cut me a deal on the produce I bought. I didn’t end up taking them up on it, but I don’t think they were joking. If you have a marketable skill like website design, you could look at trading that kind of work for food, as well.
  • Keep a friendly, polite, open line of communication with your farmers. Being a good and frequent customer can get you some discounts, but if you don’t speak with your vendor enough for them to know you and remember you, they may not realize what a good customer you are.

If you have SNAP/EBT benefits, there are many farmer’s markets that accept EBT cards. Here is a list of Farmer’s Markets that accept them. (This is the official Food and Nutrition Service document, and is a Microsoft  Word document. If you don’t have Word, I will try to keep this Google Doc version updated.)

Safe-for-Me Products: The List of What I Use

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Last updated March 2023

Sensitivities vary so wildly and there is no such thing as a list of foods that will work for everyone with a corn allergy. PLEASE try any product with caution, no matter who is recommending it, and if your reactions are severe, consider contacting the company yourself to confirm sourcing. The first trial should be only a very small amount and always with rescue meds and other safety precautions prepared, including someone around to help in case of reaction.

This is a product list with some hints at how I locate safe produce. For the specific list of what kinds of produce I can eat, see my “What I Can Eat” post.


  • Priia CosmeticsNOT all their stuff is safe. Anything with Hyaluronic Acid or Sodium Hyaluronate will be corny, as hyaluronic acid is a fermentation product. However I am able to use their creme mineral foundation, was able to use their now-discontinued liquid foundation, and their concealers. If you purchase their foundation, make sure to get samples first and carefully read their post on foundation application – you need to wait 3-5 minutes after applying the foundation sample to see how it will react with your skin.
  • Bellaphoria– all of these products are corn safe, but their foundation colors do not match my skin tone- they seem to work best for those with cool undertones and lighter skin.
  • Alima Pure Cosmetics Loose Powder Mineral Makeup – Check ingredients. I only use their powdered (not pressed, loose powder) products, and not even all of those are free of corn derivatives. But the Satin Matte loose powder foundation and the loose powder highlighter, bronzer, concealer, and contour have worked well for me and not caused any acne issues.
  •  La Bella Donna Womens’ SPF 50 contains only titanium dioxide, bismuth oxychloride, zinc oxide, and iron oxides.
  • 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara– The mascara is the only product I know is corn safe. It is *not* gluten free but I don’t seem to react to gluten near my eyes, only ingested.
  • Concrete Minerals – eye pigments only. The mineral shimmers and the matte have slightly different ingredients lists, but the company has confirmed that the magnesium stearate in the matte colors is from palm. I am also able to use the eye primers, which have petroleum products and candelila wax but no corn-derived ingredients that I can see. The lip colors contain tocopherols which they told me are from soy, so you might be able to tolerate these if you are not allergic to soy.

Environmental Trigger Protection Products (Gloves and Masks)

  • Powder-Free Nitrile Gloves – Many brands may work but those are the exact ones I use. I wash my hands with safe soap after the gloves are on to get any  possible manufacturer residue off. I prepare food with these gloves on and have never reacted to the food because of it. Update 2014: The Costco brand powder free nitrile gloves work fine too, and are WAY cheaper.
  • I Can Breathe brand carbon filter mask. Update 1/27: I am now reacting to the new removable coconut-based filters for these masks. I now prefer the VogMask both for appearance and function.
  • VogMask n99 CV and Vogmask N99 C2V. I wear size Medium.  More info on sizing here. You can gently handwash these masks, but I personally don’t think sending them through the washing machine is a good idea.  Some people need to let these masks air out for a week or two before using. The filter portion of it is fine for me out of the box, however the cloth strip around the edge that holds the whole thing together makes my face itch, and sometimes the material of the outside of the mask “smells funny” to me. To deal with the itchy cloth, I get a faucet running and hold the edges under the stream and scrub at it with my fingers, then hang it on a doorknob to dry. Once it’s dry,  I stick the whole thing in my back jeans pocket and walk around like that for a day, the warmth of my butt removes any chemical smell from the mask. This works with everything except those velvety ones that just smell weird to this day. Yes, I did just recommend using your butt to *remove* scent from an item. Any other way you have to get it warm but not too hot for several hours should work fine, I just find my back pocket convenient. Here’s a longer explanation of why I use this particular one and what it does and doesn’t help me with.
  • 3M Half Facepiece Respirator with  the  3M 60926 Multi Gas Filter Cartridges. I got this for heavier chemical & allergen exposures than the vogmask n99 can help with, however I have not used it for this purpose to see how much more effective it is. I got this product from someone who is MUCH more chemically reactive than me and believe that it will help far more than the vogmask, I just so far choose to avoid anything that the vogmask can’t handle.  I needed to air out the respirator portion of this for weeks before being able to put it on my face, it smelled strongly of plastic to me. Now that it’s been wiped down and aired out, I can wear it and the filters without having reactions to the mask or cartridges.
  • For extremely sensitive latex allergies, the 3M 60923 Organic Vapor/Acid Gas cartridges have been vetted to be latex free by the community. They filter fewer things than the ones linked above, so i would use the 60926’s unless you’re in the extreme latex sensitivity camp.
  • I now use the 3m “rugged comfort” half facepiece respirator instead of the one listed above. It’s safe for me but has not been vetted as 110% latex free by the highly latex sensitive community. 3m’s website says the facepiece does not contain latex, but I am not sure about the elastic band. Do research if you are highly sensitive to latex.

Personal Care Products

I make most of my my own body products. Recently, when I say that I mean that I buy actual raw cosmetics ingredients from cosmetics suppliers. To get an idea of what this looks like, check out the blog and youtube channel from Humblebee and Me. That’s about what I’m doing, but in a more disorganized manner and with a lot more questions to the suppliers about the exact source of products.

Below are some raw ingredients that I still use. I am additionally using cosmetics supplies from MakingCosmetics, LotionCrafter, Formulators Sample Shop, and many other places. Sorry I’m not ready to blog about this in detail yet as I’m still determining what works and is safe. But my hair looks waaaaaay better than before lol.

  • Karlin’s Finest Baking Soda (for ingestion and personal care, bought at my local co-op)
  • Desert Essence Tea Tree Tooth Tape – waxed with bees wax. I don’t react.
  • Moon Valley Organics liquid hand soap-  NOT their bar soaps or other products. I make my own body wash (see notes here) but theirs has the same ingredients as the liquid hand soap so it might be safe.
  • beeswax pastilles from Mountain Rose Herbs
  • NOW brand jojoba oil
  • NOW brand castor oil
  • NOW shea butter
  • Mountain Rose Herbs shea butter
  • Mountain Rose Herbs cocoa butter (topical only though it is food grade)
  • Mountain Rose Herbs tamanu oil
  • Young Living and Rocky Mountain Oils essential oils (check to make sure they are steam distilled, not solvent extracted.) Other oils may be safe, those are just the ones I use. NOTE: These oils can be triggers for anyone with scent sensitivity including those with mast cell disorders. Try with caution and please be aware that others around you may react to the scents if you wear them!
  • zinc oxide powder- non-nano only. I ordered some random stuff that I didn’t do any research on other than to know it did not contain nano particles, so I’m not saying which brand because I don’t trust it necessarily.
  • titaniuim dioxide powder – I ordered some random stuff from Amazon and it seems fine, but not linking it because I did no research.
  • Amazing Herbs Black Cumin Seed Cold-Pressed Oil (topical only)

Cleaning Products

And of course, I also make a lot of my own cleaning products.

  • 20 Mule Team brand Borax (for cleaning only)
  • Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder (contains coconut)
  • Charlie’s Household Cleaner (contains coconut)
  • Arm & Hammer brand washing soda (this is different from baking soda, and you *can* make your own)
  • any brand of isopropyl alcohol: Note, as of 2021 some isopropyl is now made from corn alcohol. Most drugstore brands of isopropyl are all made at one factory that is still using petroleum. I would trial new brands carefully and check with other corn allergy patients via support groups to see what’s being tolerated.
  • Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (only for cleaning- I react to it ingested.)
  • Molly Suds Laundry Detergent – Powder only. The liquid products contain corn derivatives.
  • Mama Suds Castile soap– Note, some people who are fragrance sensitive find that the unscented batches have mild cross contamination with the scented batches. I have not noticed this but have heard from others who have.

Household supplies

  • Paper Towels: unpaper towels, and also the Kirkland brand of paper towels from Costco
  • Kleenex: handkerchiefs
  • Napkins: cloth napkins
  • Cotton balls: reusable cotton rounds
  • Toilet paper: Scott Tissue 100, regular (not extra soft)
  • Trash bags: Glad tall kitchen drawstring bags. (I don’t react to those but doubt they are safe for everyone). Also the Kirkland *heavy duty* kitchen trash bags. The “regular” ones changed to have a noticeable fragrance when they started producing a fragranced variety- presumably cross contamination in the facilities.
  • Q-tips: store brands have all been fine for me so far
  • Cookware: Glass, stainless, and enameled cast iron. I want things that will come completely clean if unsafe food comes into contact with them.
  • Bakeware: I don’t do much baking these days due to having no safe flours, but I have been using pyrex and anchor hocking glass baking dishes and silpat and fox run brand silicone baking mats.
  • Aluminum Foil: I am using the Reynolds brand heavy duty and regular foil successfully and daily. I have gotten a couple from Costco that were contaminated with some kind of fragrance but they eventually off-gassed and I was able to use them safely.
  • Utensils: Silicone.
  • Blender: BlendTec -There are a number of high powered blenders out there. This is the one I got,but if I had to do it over again I might go for the much cheaper Ninja. Suffice it to say that I really do think that with this allergy you are going to WANT a blender that is capable of more than your average Oster. Here is a brief overview of the options out there.
  • Pressure Cooker/All-in-one cooker: Instantpot. I have three sizes and I use them ALL regularly. Please note that the air fryer lid comes with a teflon-coated liner and that is not safe.  Just the regular stainless liners and pressure lids.  (The Ninja Foodi air friers seem to all be ceramic coated- I haven’t tried one but it sounds like it’d be safe.)
  • Pots and pans: So far any brand of stainless pot or pan has been safe for me, although I have not tried every brand. Stainless not intended for high heat has been hit or miss due to what I think must be coatings- some of them I am able to eventually use if I scour them and rinse them enough times, others remain unsafe forever.  I am also so far able to tolerate every brand of enameled cast iron and ceramic cookware.

A note on silicone: There are some questions about the safety of silicone bakeware. The conclusion so far is that it seems relatively safe but there just haven’t been many studies done.  With respect to a corn allergy, one thing you’d want to worry about would be whether the cheaper silicone items could have corny fillers and dyes. Additionally it is important to note that silpats (which I use and happily)  are actually fiberglass coated in silicone, so you might want to avoid using a pizza cutter or sharp knife on your silpat.

Food Storage

I try to go with glass over plastic and when I store in glass I try not to let the food touch the lids.

  • Anchor Hocking TrueSeal Glass Storage
  • Pyrex Bake & Storage Glassware
  • Mason Jars- for fridge, shelf, and even freezer. I also eat soup out of mason jars.. I’ve found that many beer coozies will stretch to fit over a mason jar, so I freeze my soup in the jars, then microwave them still in the jars and slip a coozy over to insulate while I eat it.
  • Mason jar lids:  the bpa-free Ball brand canning lids contain a corn-contaminated resin and are NOT safe. I personally have been able to store non-canned foods using these lids so long as I don’t boil the jar and melt the resin, but this is a dangerous game. Some options for storage lids are:
    • Eco Jarz stainless storage lids (I haven’t tried this brand, so please do your own research)
    • Ball plastic storage caps (NOT water tight!)
    • Turning the regular canning lids upside down so that the resin doesn’t touch the food. (This only helps if you don’t react to touching the resin, which some do.)
  • FoodSaver brand vacuum bags – other brands may safe but have not been vetted by anyone. Anything made from plastic can be dusted with corn starch or made with corn-derived plastic.
  • Ziplock Brand Bags – UPDATE: Recently Ziploc released a new “easy open tab” on all of their bags, and when they did this, the plastic of the bag itself changed texture. A couple of the *most* sensitive people have reported reactions while many are still using them safely.
  • Ziplock brand “slider” bags.  Storage and freezer, all sizes. These are working for me still but reactions have been reported.
  • Hefty brand “slider” bags. All sizes. Note that these have been identified by the latex allergy community as being cross contaminated with latex.
  • Cling film: Berry Plastics “Omnifilm” 12″ roll, 5000 ft. Item # J820340.  Box E0452, UPC 709411 27245 6 – I do not buy this for home although I’m going to try soon, but the shop I buy cheese from uses it and it’s the first I’ve found that I’ve not reacted to.
  • Aluminum foil: I have only ever tried good old Reynolds brand, and it works for me and many others. There are totally possibilities for aluminum foil to be corny, so try cautiously.

Packaged Foods

I can’t believe I’m even writing this section. I never thought it was possible. I’ve been doing some protocols for settling my mast cells down that I’ll write about someday, but not today.  I don’t know for a fact that any of the below would not have worked for me before, but i was not brave enough to try them before.

  • Hu chocolate gems and bars – simple/unflavored only.
  • Once Again crunchy almond butter and unsweetened sunflower butter. The creamy almond butter was a very slight buildup reaction, and the cashew butter was not safe at all.
  • Bali Raw Cashews from Natural Zing – only in the clear 2.5lb  plastic bags. I think the bags for the smaller sizes are paper lined with something corny since I reacted to them.
  • Whole Cacao Beans from Natural Zing – the nibs and powder were moderate reactions for me. I have not tolerated any nibs or powder from anyone, not even Wilderness Family.
  • Peruvian Dried Olives from Natural Zing – I think the herbed ones are okay too but i haven’t eaten them much.
  • Purple Botija Raw Olives from Natural Zing – these are lactofermented in a salt brine solution. I still react to many kinds of water and most salts, but somehow those things together are fine in this product.
  • Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin – I buy the plastic tubs, I’ve never tried the packets.
  • Aroy-D Canned Coconut Milk – cans only, not the aseptic cartons. All sizes seem to be safe for me.

Cooking Fats


  • Otto’s Cassava Flour – Confirm with the company which size of flour is being hand-packed as the factory-packed ones share a facility with corn products. Usually the 15lb is the right one, though.
  • Lundberg sushi rice – 2lb bags- This took a LOT of washing to finally be safe for me. In general short grain rice takes more washing than other kinds to remove the excess starch and create the best results in cooking. But for my allergy tolerance, I also needed to really wash it for like more than twice as long as I would longer-grain rices.
    There are probably a lot of ways to wash rice but all the  ways I see from Asian people including the Thai side of my family involves putting the rice in a bowl and filling with water and then swishing around while scrubbing at the grains a bit, then draining the water and repeating until the water is clear or nearly clear. I do this with a nesting mesh colander that I lift out, but you can also just kind of tip the bowl and use your hand to strain.  The first time I tried the rice, I was rinsing and scrubbing for so long I gave up once the water poured into the bowl was clear without agitation. It turns out what I needed was for the water to be nearly clear even after I scrubbed and agitated. I’m told by a Japanese friend that you want to stop short of the water being completely clear if you would like the final product to be a bit sticky such as for making onigiri or sushi. However obviously if you need to wash it more for tolerance, there’s no choice about that.


For the most part I try to use herbs that are fresh from specific vendors at the farmers market or my own garden. I dry and store them for the winter. I can’t reliably tolerate dried spices from any particular vendor so far.

  • Himalayan pink salt, bought in large blocks intended for salt-plate cooking. I rinse them under water for 3-5 minutes then let them dry, then use a very HUGE mortar and pestle intended for making guacamole to whack off chunks and break them up into grinder-sized pieces. I have eventually reacted to every pre-ground salt, so this is how I have to do it.
  • Red Boat Fish Sauce – just the unflavored fish sauce, not any condiments but so far any variety iof unflavored, including the unfiltered has been safe.
  • Coconut Secret Coconut Vinegar – NOTE, Nutiva just bought this company and I have NEVER tolerated a product from Nutiva so I may remove this product soon. 😦
  • Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos – Same story as above. Works for now, have no idea if the next batch will work. I also tolerated the coconut crystals and coconut flour, and those have been completely discontinued.


At this time I am am *mostly* eating fruits and vegetables from specific local vendors at the farmers market. These are vendors that I have talked with and determined that they use practices that work for me allergywise. (For ideas on what questions to ask, reference Where’s the Corn in Foods? and this awesome list of questions.) I do have just a couple of grocery store items I can eat, and then there are a couple of items I mail order away for because it is easier than finding them safe locally. There are also just a few items that I have discovered I can eat only if I grow them myself, mostly root vegetables, because the  organic fertilizers that folks are using are problematic for me. Not sure if that is for corn reasons or what.

General advice about asking questions of farms: Check about the spray status of *each* crop, as different plants will have different possible issues. For example,  in my area squash,pole beans, and eggplants have powdery mildew issues and may be sprayed with a certified organic spray for that. Brassicas (like broccoli) may have pest issues during the hot months that will decimate a crop in a day, but do not have these issues in winter, so cabbage from the same farm may be unsafe in summer but safe in winter, or may be intermittently unsafe in winter since they are selling a mix of new plantings and heads that were planted in summer. On the other hand, some crops like peppers that are resistant to these issues may not be.  To complicate things more, the microclimate may vary between farms even if they are relatively close together, so they may face different issues and use different methods. Ask about sprays a few different ways- Often people are accustomed to answering questions from the perspective of toxicity or general safety, and will reply that they don’t “do anything” to a crop, when they mean they don’t do anything *toxic* to it.  Something that works for me is to just ask them about whether a specific plant is pretty hardy or if it’s susceptible to blight or pests, and how they deal with that.

Mail Order Fruits & Veggies

  • Chaffin Family Orchards – Citrus fruit and raw/uncured olives to cure yourself. The pre-pressed olive oil is NOT safe.
  • Rancho Charanda Citrus Ranch –  So far everything I’ve tried from them (citrus, dragon fruit, cactus fruit) has been safe for me.

From Local Farms

Note that these foods are subject to seasonal availability, so it is very important that I buy extra and preserve while they are available. All items must be spray free. Fertilizer seems to only matter for items that grow below the ground our touch the ground. Items that are co-grown with corn are a problem for me, and during corn harvest season anything that is even transported on a truck with corn I react to. As much as possible, I avoid farms that also grow corn.

  • Leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, peas: Spray free. Fertilizer does not seem to be not a very big problem with items that grow above the ground.
  • Pomme Fruits (apples, pears, quince)- Mineral/kaolin clay is okay for me if I peel them, but not others. My first-safest vendor uses poultry to control bugs on his apples. My second safest vendor is not organic but sprays once before the fruit buds and not again later. The certified organic folks often spray their organic pest repellents several times throughout the season, coating the fruit in the corn-based solvent/coating agents used to make the repellent stick. If the fruit itself has been sprayed with anything, organic or not, there is usually an issue.
  • Stone Fruits (peaches, apricots, plums, cherries) – Similar to above, but these fruits are very prone to mold in our area, especially cherries. >Late in the season, bags may be used to line the fruit boxes that are either dusted with corn starch or have an antimicrobial coating.
  • Berries – Spray free. U-pick if possible because the packaging can be corny. More info here. 
  • Mushrooms, grown on sawdust. More on how mushrooms can be corny.

Grown Myself (Curently this should probably be read as, “stuff I *could* eat if I didn’t suck at gardening.)

  • All root vegetables.

I seem to have an unusual amount of troubles with foods that grow below the ground. I believe this is because the certified organic fertilizers many farmers use contain corn based preservatives like citric acid, and those that simply use animal manure still feed their animals some corn. I am still working out what the parameters are for safety for myself. So far using NO fertilizer results in root vegetables I can eat, but very low crop yields. Like, my last attempt I got about as many potatoes as I planted.  (boo) But they were safe. (yay)

From the Co-op or Natural/Organic Grocery Store (all items organic, unwaxed, and not packaged in any kind of plastic bags or wrap, however I may be getting lucky with if and what kinds of sprays or fungicides are being used. Your mileage may vary depending on your sensitivities and the suppliers for your particular store)

  • grapefruit (organic, unwaxed, ungassed, from California)
  • tangerines and mandarins (organic, unwaxed, ungassed, from California) – somehow not navel oranges, but I don’t know if this is a corn problem or not
  • Equal Exchange brand bananas. Organics Unlimited brand bananas.
  • Somehow, don’t ask me how, but every organic mango I have ever tried from my local food co-ops has been safe for me?
  • Covilli brand organic Oaxacan Gold pineapple, Pink brand organic pineapple (from Jade Produce), La Patrona brand organic pineapple (from Pao Organics)

Meat/Protein sources

  • Chicken (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Beef (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Lamb  (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Shellfish (local, pulled direct from the water and only kept on ice)
  • In-Shell Walnuts from a private distributor.   Sorry, I am working on a new publicly available mail-order source but currently do not have one. I have reacted to in-shell walnuts from many orchards that claim don’t spray, and have reacted to all shelled nuts, ever.  I keep the walnuts in the freezer until I eat them so they don’t mold. Yes, it takes up a lot of freezer space. Yes, cracking them is labor intensive. I do it anyway.


  • A few local honeys. (questions to ask)
  • Honey from Sunny Honey Co – ONLY the 12 oz sizes and larger as the smaller jars are sanitized with unsafe cleaners. I reacted to the raspberry blossom and sweet clover. I have tried and done well with: moses lake wildflower, fireweed, buckwheat blossom, maple blossom, blackberry blossom, coriander blossom. I reacted to pumpkin blossom but believe it is corn safe as others have tolerated. I am allergic to pumpkins.
  • Maple syrup from Patterson Farms. The defoamer is heavy cream.
  • Maple Syrup from Sugar Maple Farms. They use no defoamer at all.  I have only tried the plastic jugs not the glass jars, and do okay with them.


  • Tea- I am tolerating the teas from Mountain Rose Herbs in the 4oz cellulose packaging. The larger packages are in craft paper bags lined with corn PLA and I react to those. I personally can only do the black and oolong teas (except the Kumaon variety, but don’t know why) but I think this is a separate sensitivity and has to do with how black vs green tea is processed. I have not been able to do any herbal teas from MRH and I don’t know if that’s corn or another sensitivity.
  • Coffee – I mainly buy from Dancing Goats Coffee. They’ve been very responsive to production and packaging concerns and have clear information on how each  of their single origin coffees is processed. I seem to do slightly better with coffees that are not wet-processed or washed, but honestly all the roasts I’ve gotten from them have been safe, including the blends. I do find that I do better if I rinse the coffee beans in water and then dehydrate them- when I do not I eventually start having interstitial cystitis symptoms which I’ve recently realized cease when I take antihistamines. So it’s a build-up reaction.  Their foil bags are lined with poly plastic. Their “biotre” paper bags are actually made from wood pulp, but I still try to stick with the foil bags because packaging changes are scary.
  • Z Street Coffee has also been safe for me. Their black poly-lined bags have been safe for me for packaging. I haven’t spoken to them in some time, but the owner has a relative with corn allergy and is aware of our concerns to some degree and happy to answer questions.

Dairy Products

Deli Counter Cheeses

NOTE: Packaging is a HUGE problem with cheese, especially cut and wrapped cheeses. Many/most plastic wraps are either dusted with corn starch or in some other way are corny and cause a massive reaction. Additionally the surface cleaners and disinfectants that many shops will use will contaminate cheese. I happen to have completely lucked out and found a local shop (Metropolitan Market in West Seattle) that uses products that are okay for me. The same chain but a different shop (Bellevue) is NOT safe for me. So finding the cheese itself is only half the problem. Less than half. For items like the Herve Mons Emmental, the wheel is something like 150-200lbs, so ordering the whole wheel is probably not reasonable unless you have a HUGE group buy.

Generally speaking when I’m choosing a cheese to try I try to look for something that is very traditionally made. Name-controlled cheese like the French AOP or Italian DOP/PDO designations seem to have a good rate of being safe. I also look for cheeses that do not contain extra ingredients like “enzymes”, various spices/flavors, or egg egg lysozyme,  although once in a while these have been okay for me. I do  avoid the specific ingredient anatto as that is derived from corn more often than not. I have not yet tolerated a microbial or vegetarian rennet as these are typically fermented on corn dextrose, so I tend to only bother to try cheeses that use traditional animal rennet.

Do note that many of these traditional cheese are very pungent and “moldy” and are not to everyone’s taste. Fortunately I was a stinky cheese fan “before” corn allergy. They are also incredibly expensive.

  • Kirkland Isigny St Mere brand grass-fed Brie. This cheese is grass fed in summer but the cows are supplemented with grain in winter, and the grain surely contains corn. I still do great with it. NOTE: I have pulled this due to an intolerance reaction- I do not think the cheese is corny but I think it may be soy or gluten contaminated.
  • Herve Mons St Nuage cheese – It’s very ripe and VERY rich. It does not have the “stinky” bite like the camembert below but it’s still a bit more ripened than the Isigny brie.
  • Monte Enebro goat cheese from Spain. – This, like the other cheeses other than the Isigny, is very expensive.
  • Herve Mons Camembert– This one smells a bit like feet, so if you are not a stinky cheese fan, stay away. 🙂
  • Herve Mons Emmental –  This is a hard cheese, similar to Gruyere or a very aged swiss in flavor. Note: You MUST find someone who can cut and wrap this for you safely as the whole wheel is over 100 lbs!!!
  • Vallee d’Aspe Ossau-Iraty raw sheeps milk cheese. This is a semi-hard aged cheese, think gouda more than extra sharp cheddar, with a very rich creamy, somewhat nutty flavor. I do not buy it from the seller I just linked, I get it locally.
  • Grana Padano cheese, any age, from Ambrosi or Agriform. This is one that contains egg lysozyme so avoid if you have an egg allergy.
  • Delice de Bourgnone triple-cream soft cheese – If you don’t have a safe option for cut-and-wrap,  the whole wheel of this is a lot (4.4lb) but more reasonable to buy than, say, a wheel fo Herve Mons emmental.
  • Époisses cheese.  This is sold in a whole wheel in a manageable 8oz size, but it’s also banned from French public transit because it smells so bad. If you like a stinky cheese, this is the one for you.
  • Fromi Colommiers Cheese –  I don’t remember the actual size of this, but the whole wheel is probably 2lbs or less. It’s not as smelly as Epoisses but it’s very ripe.
  • Delice De Mon Sire triple creme cheese. This one is a pretty mild brie, to me anyway. Not super moldy or stinky. I think a whole wheel of this is 2.2lbs.
  • The plastic wrap they use that is safe for me is: Berry Plastics “Omnifilm” 12″ roll, 5000 ft. Item # J820340.  Box E0452, UPC 709411 27245 6

Packaged Cheese and Dairy

  • Bellwether Farms Whole Milk Basket Ricotta – The sheep ricotta has corn ingredients, the linked item does not.
  • Bellwether Farms Creme Fraiche – note that the fromage blanc from this same company is not safe, and I suspect that the crescenza would not be either. I think it is most likely the starter cultures used as those frequently seem to contain corn ingredients when I look at the starter cultures available for individuals/hobby cheesemakers to buy.
  • Ferndale Farmstead cheese– So far, everything I have tried from them is safe for me: Fresh Mozzarella, scamorza (including smoked), asiago, and caciotta. I do not know if you can buy this brand outside of the Pacific Northwest

Milk and cultures for home cheesemaking

I’ll list the actual milks I’m buying below, but if you don’t live near me that won’t likely be helpful. Here’s what i learned about finding milks I tolerate:

  • Plastic containers were an issue for me until I started doing some MCAS protocols to reduce my non-corn sensitivity. I am very certain this was not a corn issue. But if you also cannot tolerate plastics, what I had to do for some time was get people to put their milk in my steam-sanitized mason jars.
  • Sanitizers on the containers, lines, and  any pails and tanks are a BIG big problem. For some people the only possibly safe sanitization is steam/hot water. It’s been okay for me for them to use pure bleach (just sodium hypochlorite and no other weird additives) and then let it completely dry, then rinse and completely dry again.  What is NOT ever, ever okay is any kind of no-rinse sanitizer. They *all* contain corn. Star-san tablets contain actual corn starch. The stuff made wit peroxyacetic acid sounds like it’s oxygen based, but the acetic acid part is corn based. And then it’s not rinsed off so that causes even more of an issue.
  • And then of course feed is an issue, to varying degrees. For me it seems okay as long as the animals don’t get fed corn as their main diet, and a small treat during milking time or some vitamin supplements with corn derived vitamin c, do not cause an issue. That may be a problem for others.

Milks Tolerated

Cheese, Sour Cream, and Yogurt Making Supplies

I buy all of these from New England Cheesemaking as I have found their website to disclose all necessary ingredients information without me needing to call them about things. But you can certainly buy many of these from elsewhere. I made cheese a lot for like, 6 months and then kind of stopped because, well, it’s a lot of trouble.

Grilling Supplies

More info on grilling safety. 


I dump almost all of these into liquid and drink rather than swallowing the capsules. This is mostly because I have poor esophageal motility, but it also means I don’t always have a good idea how safe the capsule is, just the filler.

  • Jarrow Pantothenic acid.   Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm; gelatin is beef-derived.
  • Jarrow Mag-Mind.  Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm; gelatin is beef-derived.
  • Jarrow B-Right.  Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm. Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose is from pine. Good news for those with MTHFR: Jarrow has updated their formula to ONLY contain quatrefolic rather than a mixture of quatrefolic and folic acid.
  • Integrative Therapeutics N-Acetyl Cysteine – Note that many products from this brand have obvious corn derivatives. This is the only one I use currently.
  • Jarrow Acetyl L Carnitine
  • Dr Ron’s Quercetin and Bromelain – This is the ONLY quercetin supplement I can find that is not derived from a plant in the legume family. The quercetin is from red onion, the bromelain is from pineapple, and the bioperine is from black pepper. It is extracted with petroleum ether.
  • Dr Ron’s Vitamin D3
  • As of May 2018, I have removed all Pure Encapsulations supplements from this list. Nestle bought this company and then a few months later the label changed and I began reacting pretty severely to all of their supplements. I believe they must have switched filler suppliers, although I can’t confirm this.  I do not know how many other people are reacting to this, but my reaction was strong enough I just can’t recommend it to anyone.


  • Compounded diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Compounded hydroxyzine Hcl (atarax)
  • Compounded cromolyn sodium (gastrocrom)
  • Compounded levocetirizine (Xyzal)
  • Compounded ketotifen fumarate.  This med is one that takes 11-16 weeks to show effectiveness and has some difficult effects during ramp up (fatigue/sedation). It can only be compounded in the united states as there is no major brand name manufacturer distributing it here.   Reference 1 – Reference 2 –  Reference 3
  • Compounded ranitidine (Zantac) – as needed

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On having an “invisible” illness.

Not all allergic reactions are visible. In fact the worst and most dangerous of my allergic reactions are *not* visible, because they involve the inside of my throat and mouth, my lungs, and my brain. You can’t see any of those things, but I will stop breathing all the same.

Many folks I know who have life-threatening allergic reactions experience only neurological or gastrointestinal symptoms which are in fact incredibly dangerous if allowed to continue, but not in any way visible. Getting people to understand what they go through and believe that the precautions they take are necessary and not just paranoid or attention-seeking is incredibly difficult in that kind of situation. Even well-meaning and otherwise reasonable loved ones will often conclude hypochondria, except that it *isn’t* hypochondria if you are actually sick!

Once upon a time, three years ago now, I had a severe and visible allergic reaction to the tiniest trace of corn derivative. It actually didn’t turn out to be that dangerous (never progressed into any internal issues), but it *could* have. At the time I took pictures because I thought it was weird and actually kind of hilarious in a sick way, but it turned out to be a very good way to get people to understand that yes, this allergy is real, and yes, it is possible to be *that* sensitive.


If you or a loved one are an allergy sufferer, and have a visible reaction, I highly encourage you to document. Obviously do what you need to do to assure your safety first, but get pictures if you possibly can. It may come in handy later.

Allergy Accessories: Epipen Carriers

When ya gotta carry an epipen, you might as well do it in style. I have a few different things I do for hauling around my Allergy Accoutrements.

I keep two epipens in my bag at all times. I keep them in a waterproof Pelican 1030 Micro Case along with a lip balm tin containing compounded Benadryl capsules. I taped the prescription for the benadryl to the top of the tin so that any official type person can see what the pills are. I thought keeping it in a waterproof case might be overkill, but the day after I finally got it, I had a major water bottle leak in my purse and would have lost $50 of Benadryl, if not the $250 of epipens.


For longer trips, I keep two *more* epipens, plus spare inhalers, and a spare bottle of Benadryl in another, larger Pelican 1050 Micro Case.


And for concerts and other short outings where it really isn’t feasible to carry a big purse or backpack, I bring the following items in a utility belt:
leather epi pen holster

  • 1 EpiPen 
  • Lip Balm case of Benadryl
  • Albuterol Inhaler
  • Small squeeze bottle of liquid soap for washing hands
  • Carbon filter face mask kept in a ziploc bag, for aiborne corn: popcorn, fog machines, ethanol fumes, or people wearing a ton of perfume.
  • A black bandana/handkerchief for wiping hands, blowing nose, whatever.
  • If I think I’ll need it, a flattened end of a roll of toilet paper, because yes, toilet paper is often corny, and that is not a reaction you want to have.

leather epi pen holsterleather epi pen holster

My setup is very rock and roll, but there are MANY ways to make carrying this kind of stuff around cute. There are many, many manufacturers of utility belts on Etsy and elsewhere- most of them seem to specifically mention being for Burning Man. I got my utility belt from Gekko London via their Etsy Shop. The workmanship is quality, the pockets were the right size for what I needed, and bonus: The total price for the belt, including shipping to the US, was only 47 GBP! That’s a *steal* for that kind of work, I tell you!

My epipen holster is also from Etsy, specifically from Dennis Doaty Leathercraft. A word of caution: This holster looks badass because it looks like a weapon holster. That’s intentional. Security guards will think it is a weapon. If you are going to wear it in to an event where a weapon would be a problem, walk UP to security holding the epipen separate from the empty holster in your hand, and keep them in your hands until you are all the way through security. Otherwise you will need to tell every single security guard on your way in what it is, and some of them may actually lay hands on you to find out what it is. Can you tell I know this from experience? You may wish to just get a less badass looking epipen case. There are still lots of cute and less threatening-looking options out there.