Corn-tamination Series: Where’s the Corn in Cheese?

Cheese is actually a difficult prospect for many folks with corn allergies. In fact, I’ve had some of my most surprising severe reactions from cheese. It seems like such a simple product, and I’ve had a few cheeses that nearly sent me to the hospital from just one bite!

I don’t know if I have the whole story here, but here are potential corn allergy issues I’ve identified with cheeses:

  • Production: -corn starch dusting mold and I think also sanitizers which are almost always corn based used on equipment.
  • Packaging: Plastic wraps dusted in corn starch, wax papers waxed with corn-based wax or dusted with corn starch. For rounds that are coated in wax, the wax itself could be corn based or could contain a dye that is corn based.
  • Re-packaging. When cheese shops and grocery store cheese counters cut the wheels and repackage slices, their equipment may be cross contaminated with corn products, the cleaner on it is cleaned with a corn based sanitizer, and the plastic wrap itself is often dusted in corn starch.
  • Starter cultures, rennet, and enzymes. The Wikipedia entry on Rennet has a good overview of what rennet is and how it is produced.  There are 5 types of coagulants in cheese making:
    • Animal Rennet: Enzymes that coagulate cheese are harvested from the stomachs of calves. While this is a problem for vegetarians, it is one of the safer cultures in cheesemaking for a corn allergy. However that doesn’t mean it’s always safe. Animal rennet can contain all kinds of preservatives that are commonly derived from corn. This ingredients list for a liquid animal rennet contains: propylene glycol, caramel color, flavor, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, all of which are likely from corn. So the safety of the cheese will just depend on the source of the rennet.
    • Vegetable Rennet: Many plants produce coagulating chemicals. This can be a variety of sources from caper leaves and thistles to phytic acid from soybeans, and yes, probably corn. I can’t find any evidence that coagulating chemicals are ever extracted from corn, just guessing. However even if they aren’t, the same preservatives listed above are often included in the vegetable rennet packaged for resale. Here’s one ingredients list that includes acetic acid and sodium acetate.
    • Microbial Rennet: Molds that produce coagulating enzymes are cultured to produce the coagulants. Can be cultured on a corn sugar medium and of course can be preserved with corn-based chemicals similar to animal rennet.
    • Fermentation-produced Chymosin. This is a genetically engineered product. Rennet producing genes are extracted from animal stomachs and inserted into various bacteria, fungi, and yeasts to make them produce chymosin when they wouldn’t normally. Then the chymosis is produced similar to microbial rennet, via fermentation, probably on a corn sugar medium.
  • Dyes. Many cheeses are colored with anatto, which can be from corn, or another dye that is corn-based.

So How Do I Find Safe Cheese?

For me personally, I find that artisan cheeses imported from cheese-loving european cultures such as France are better bets. I really don’t know the details of why that’s true, but I am guessing all of the possibilites for “incidental corn” listed above are just lower in those cultures due to small-batch and traditional practices. I have found a couple american-made cheeses that are okay, but the percentage is very small and often they worked for only a time before something changed and I started reacting. The problem is that corn-based chemicals are so widely available here for so many things that eventually the suppliers upstream of the cheese producers will change and previously safe food will become corny.
Something else I am finding is that I have to buy whole rounds.. when big grocery store counters cut the wheels and repackage, their equipment is not just cross contaminated, but also the cleaner on it is cleaned with a corn based sanitizer, and the plastic wrap itself is often dusted in corn starch. I could work with a small shop to cut me a fresh piece from a wheel using equipment cleaned with safe cleaners, but I just haven’t taken the time, instead buying products that come from the manufacturer individually packaged. Provided that the original packaging is safe of course.

Corn-tamination Series: Avoiding Corn in Meat

There’s Corn In Meat?

Oh, of course there is. The degree  to which those with corn allergies have to worry about it will vary with the individual. Some are more reactive to corny washes than to corn feed, and some have to only worry about animals fed whole kernels of corn but not corn-derived vitamins or other corn products. It just depends on the person.

The two biggest ways corn gets into meat is the animal’s feed, and the disinfecting washes used on meat in processing. Not everyone is sensitive to both things or either of them. I started out having to worry about neither, and then progressed over a period of many years to having to worry about both, and to the point that not even the tiniest traces of corn based sanitizer used on the meat at any point were okay for me.

Finding Out Where the Corn Is Can Be Tricky

When I got more sensitive, I found that I even reacted to the pre-cut meat from local pastured meat ranches who swore to me that not only did their animals never eat any corn at all, but they didn’t rinse the meat off with any disinfectants.

I spent weeks on the phone trying to figure out what the problem was. The big clue came when I noticed that my reaction to a particular ranch’s beef was much more severe than to their pork. That ranch happened to have their own slaughter and butcher facilities (most ranchers send their animals to third parties for slaughter and butcher) so I called the facility manager. She kept insisting over and over that they didn’t spray the meat with anything, until finally, after the third conversation, she said, “Oh! you know, after we slaughter and skin, we do the acid wash. But that’s just white vinegar, that’s from rice right?” Wrong, vinegar is from corn and it’s bad news for me. Compared to lactic acid, which I still am sensitive to, it’s basically pure corn.

Turns out the reason the pork was better than the beef is that after the acid wash, a layer of outer fat is trimmed from the pork, while with the beef the butchering is done directly after. So more of the corny vinegar wash was trimmed away with the pork. It still really got in there, so I was unable to do it.

The Laundry List: How Corn Gets Into Meat

Here’s my understanding of how corn gets into meat in the USA:

  • Corn in the animal’s feed. Not everyone has to worry about this. I can’t eat corn fed meat but seem to be able to eat corn fed eggs and dairy. Many others cannot even do dairy or eggs from corn-fed animals. Note that some “grass-fed” beef is still “grain finished”: fed grain the few weeks before slaughter to fatten them up. So if you need to care about feed, also ask if it is grass finished. Some smaller farmers purchase their animals as weanlings from other farmers and raise them after that point. Also note that even though some feed labels do not contain actual corn kernels, they will still contain corn-derived vitamins such as tocopherol and ascorbic acid, and contain fermentation products that were fermented on corn sugar. Also some animals such as pigs will be supplemented with kitchen scraps that may be corny. Not everyone has to worry about this, but I seem to have to worry about all of the above, personally.
  • Corn in dietary supplements given outside of feed. Recently one of my corn-free friends ended up with 3/4 of a cow her allergic kids were reacting to, and the only variable that was different from their last (safe) beef was a “mineral lick” that contained a number of corn derivatives.
  • Corn fodder used in bedding that the animals may end up eating. 
  • Slaughter: Hot wax is often used to help in plucking poultry. The wax may not be corny but I’m not minded to risk it personally.
  • Slaughter: Antimicrobial solutions applied after skinning. With livestock (vs wild game), slaughtering and butchering are often done by two different people.  A guy will come out to the farm and slaughter and skin the animals, and for larger animals they will cut them into very large chunks. Then the chunks will be sent to the butcher to be further cut down and packaged.  The USDA requires some sort of antimicrobial solution be applied after skinning, and this solution is usually paracetic acid, acetic acid (vinegar), lactic acid, or citric acid. All of these are from corn, and I react to all of them.  Steam/hot water disinfecting is supposedly allowed but I rarely hear of it being done.  In some states, USDA rules *must* be obeyed even on custom processed animals. In other states, as long as you buy the whole animal you can dictate what is done to it, no problem.  When calling around, what you are looking for is “custom meat processors.”
  • Slaughter: USDA “roller brand” is applied to USDA certified meat classifying the grade. Not sure what this stamp is allowed to be made from but reports of people who had meat custom processed and reacted to it say that the stamp on their meat was made from grape juice, which of course has the potential to be corny.  Ask about the USDA stamp/”roller brand” and see if it can be skipped.
  • Slaughter: Detergent, soaps, and lubricants used on surfaces, cutting implements, and hands. Dawn, Dial, Bon Ami, and most other cleaners and soaps commonly used for washing hands and surfaces are corny.  The powder on powdered gloves is corny.   Some types of cutting tools are oiled with an oil that may not be safe for you.  If the processor uses gloves, identify a safe-for-you glove and provide those. Identify a safe-for-you detergent and cleaner and ask the processor to use those. If you can’t work that out, either consider finding another processor, or ask them to rinse their tools really, really, really well. Maybe see if they can use the tools on another animal first so that the corny detergent gets worked off of the tools. Of course if they are hosing their other animals off with a corny solution, that won’t help you as they’ll just be contaminating the tools more.
  • Butchering: Aging. Unlike lamb, beef has to be aged for 10-14 days after slaughter in order to be edible, otherwise the meat is very tough. Wet aging *should* involve just putting the beef into vacuum sealed packaging for sale and keeping it refrigerated for a period of weeks. If something is added in with the meat to “help” it age or inhibit “bad” bacteria, that would be a problem. Or if the beef were wet-aged in a different package from what it was sold in (unlikely), you’d have to ask About both packages. Dry aging involves hanging the carcass in a refrigerated locker at very specific temperature and humidity and.. letting it hang. This should be safe for corn, unless some kind of brine or antimicrobial spray is used during this process.Article on aging beef. Article on dry aging beef.
  • Note that the aging process makes breed high histamine so if you react to histamines in food, exercise caution with beef.

  • Butchering: Detergent, soaps, and lubricants used on surfaces, cutting implements, and hands.  Same story as above: Ask them to use safe for you soap, detergents, and gloves. Since the butcher will be doing a LOT more to the animal than the person who does the slaughter, it is particularly important that you work with someone who is truly custom and truly wants to do what YOU need. I found a place that is very small and actually only open “on demand,” that are very accommodating and are willing to do whatever I need.
  • Butchering: Meat grinders are washed and sanitized with corny solutions. Meat grinders being what they are, they are usually going to be washed and sanitized with something heavy duty and of course corny.  Additionally the act of grinding the meat exposes more surface to potential allergen contamination. You can ask the to just rinse the grinder really well with water after washing, but I ask them to skip all ground meat and instead do stew chunks. I can then grind those chunks into ground meat using my food processor, if I choose. How to grind meat in your food processor.
  • Butcher and slaughtering: Cross contamination if corny washes/cleaners/sprays are used. I prefer to only go with a facility that doesn’t ever use the corny washes if possible. If that weren’t possible, I’f try to get them to process my animal first, after washing all equipment in the safe soap/sanitizer I supply, so that any corny washes used for the other animals don’t get on my animal, but I’ve heard that cross contamination is frequent when the butcher typically used the corny washes and skips them on demand. I have heard stories from a number of people that their first meat order was a horrible failure because even though the processor didn’t use corny chemicals on their animal, there was corn just left over on their instruments and surfaces. In all cases, switching to a processor that didn’t use the corny washes *ever* was the solution.
  • Packaging: Butcher paper may have corn fiber in it. Waxed papers may use a corn-based wax.  Plastic liners may also contain corn polymers.  Stretch plastic wrap is  usually dusted with corn starch. All of the  other items may also be dusted with corn starch to keep them from sticking. You’ll need to get the item numbers and  manufacturers/suppliers name from your butcher and contact them about what’s in/on the packaging. My butchers have agreed to just put everything into Ziplock brand bags, which I know are safe for me.

The above refers to US practices as I live in the US, but many of the issues mentioned may be issues in other countries as well. The disinfecting wash mentioned seems to have been banned in the UK up until 2012, but is now approved by the Food Standards Agency. I think it is not yet common practice, and the European suppliers of lactic acid often use wheat rather than corn glucose to produce their lactic acid, however this may increasingly pose a problem for the more sensitive UK corn allergy sufferers.

So How To Get Corn-Free Meat?

Well, it depends on how corn-free you need it. Many people will not need to get their meat custom processed right away. I didn’t need to for many years.

If you (or your loved one for whom you cook) are reacting to your grocery store meat, there may be some steps you can take before you have to dive in to the expense and risk of getting meat custom processed.

First try to eliminate some variables. Grocery store meat is going to be rinsed in citric or lactic acid several times and possibly have dyes applied to keep it looking fresh, and then packaged with a citric acid soaker pad and then wrapped with plastic wrap that is dusted in corn starch. Try a butcher counter, and from a real, artisan butcher who can tell you what happened to the meat from the time it came to him. That won’t cut out the initial corny wash after slaughter, but maybe you can get away with that part of it if it isn’t then hosed down in more corny washes and then wrapped up in more corn.

If you find a good butcher and aren’t able to tolerate “light wash” meats, then figure out if corn fed is a problem for you, or corny washes, or both. One way to tell, if you don’t have an allergy to chicken, would be to get an Empire Kosher chicken. Many Trader Joe’s locations sell them as do many kosher stores. Affordable Kosher here in Seattle sells them, and you can order from Affordable Kosher via Amazon Fresh. The empire chickens are fed corn, but are not washed in citric acid or any other corn-based solution. I don’t know what the plastic packaging is made out of, so what I’d do to really isolate variables is get a whole chicken, then rinse and skin it before cooking. Make sure to cook in a fashion that won’t introduce corn. I had a lot of false reactions for a while because the oven in my rental house had some kind of corny buildup in it and was cooking corn into everything.

If the Empire Kosher chicken isn’t working for you, and you’re totally certain you don’t have an allergy to chicken, then it’s probably safe to bet that corn-fed meat is your problem. I react to Empire Kosher chicken.  There may be some other experimenting you can do around that, just depending on the resources available to you.

If you find yourself in a situation where none of the store-bought meats are working for you, you’ll need to locate some farmers that raise corn-free livestock and then negotiate custom slaughter and butchering. To locate the farmers, use Eat Wild and  Local Harvest. Locating safe butchers and slaughterers is another story. I actually just lucked into my butchers- the folks I bought poultry from used them for their lambs and I was able to negotiate something safe.

My Story and Experiences

As I mentioned earlier, after several years of avoiding corn, I eventually became unable to tolerate even the tiniest traces of corn derivatives used anywhere near my meat. When you get to that point, the only thing left to do is to choose the animal you want from a rancher that has never fed it anything that could be a problem, and control every step of processing from slaughter to butcher and packaging.

Unfortunately navigating the custom processing is not easy, and also carries a hefty financial risk. You generally need to order a large quantity of meat such as 1/4 cow (what that looks like) or 1/2 of a pig (what that looks like).  In addition to paying for the meat itself (from hundreds to even thousands of dollars), you will also be investing in a freezer in which to store it. That’s a pretty significant expense if you get it wrong and react.

I am very lucky to live in an area where there are a number of farms who raise non-corn-fed chickens and pigs. Outside of this area it seems that corn-free chicken and pig feed are unheard of. Here we have two feeds that don’t contain corn available. Both are described on this feed ingredients document from the Seattle Farm Co-op.

I have recently tried some chicken fed one of these “corn free” feeds, Scratch & Peck, and had a reaction. I am pretty sure it was the feed- there are a lot of corny vitamins and additives in it even though there aren’t any literal kernels of corn, so that could be the issue, or it could be a cross contamination thing. I am pretty sure it wasn’t a processing problem. The chicken I eat is fed a corn-free variety from InSeason Farms, but I don’t know which one. Have asked my farmers for details.

I also failed some pork that wasn’t fed actual corn kernels, but was given kitchen scraps as a dietary supplement that likely contained corn, and was fed expired dairy products. Not sure which products exactly, but many brands of sour cream contain corn starch and other dairy products have corny vitamins in them. I also cannot seem to tolerate meat from animals that were fed corn at the beginning of their lives but fed corn free later. Apparently any amount of corn in their diet is a no-go. So for me, my meat can’t even eat “corn lite,” it has to truly be corn free.

Not everyone will be this sensitive- just covering the bases of what is possible here.

Getting a large animal custom processed was beyond me last summer, but since many local farms slaughter and process the chickens themselves, I was able to get several safe chickens. Those ran out around January, though, and then I was down to just eggs for protein. (I haven’t found any beans that I don’t react to yet. Not sure if that is a bean problem or a corn problem.)

As of the last update of this post, I have successfully had chickens, lamb, and beef custom processed. The chickens were processed by the farmers who raised them, while the lamb and the cow were slaughtered by a contractor and then transported to a butcher for portioning out. The beef was dry aged for 14 days before butchering. The lamb was delicious, but also served as a lower-risk test to see if I’d covered all the bases with my instructions than an entire side of beef. The lamb cost me about $575 after the slaughter, transport, cut and wrap fees. I only got a quarter cow for my first beef order and all told it cost me about $560 for 175 lbs of beef. It worked out to about $11.50/lb for the lamb, where you’re usually paying $16-$20/lb in the store, and $3.20/lb for the beef which is a steal for grass fed and finished.

Question List

Here is the list of questions I advise people to ask of potential meat processors. First I have just the questions for copy/pasting. Below that, I’ve gone into each question and my commentary.

Ask First

  1. Who kills the animal and skins it? Then who cuts, and who packages?

Depending on the answer, you may need to ask up to 3 people these questions.

Kill/Slaughter

  1. What do you use to clean your knives, surfaces, and other equipment, including the interior of the truck for transport?
  2. Do you use any kind of antimicrobial wash after skinning?
  3. Do you use a roller brand after skinning?
  4. Are gloves used?

Butcher/cutting

  1. What detergent, soaps, and/or lubricants are used on surfaces, machinery, and cutting implements?
  2. Are gloves used?
  3. Do you dry age or wet age the meat?

If wet aged

  1. Just to double-check, you wet age by putting in the final packaging that you sell the meat in, right?

 

If dry aged

  1. What do you clean your aging locker with?
  2. Do you every apply any antimicrobial solution, brine, or anything else to the meat before or during aging?

Packaging

  1. Are gloves used?
  2. What brand packaging do you use?
  3. Would you be willing to use packaging I provide?
  4. Does the meat come in contact with any other packaging like wax paper?

What should these answers be?

In many cases it will depend on you/your sensitivity. Here are the answers I’m looking for:
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Where’s the Corn in Non-Food Products?

Last updated: June 2, 2013

This research was originally done by the creator of the blog called Hidden Corn. This blog is no longer maintained as the author  was no longer keeping up on the newest developments. I wanted it to remain available for people, so I took the data over and am soliciting help from a trusted friend to keep it up to date. We are making changes and additions as we note missing or outdated information.  Please comment or email me at cornallergygirl@gmail.com  if you see anything that is incorrect, or any broken links.

3D PRINTER INK: The two available “inks” for 3D printers are ABS and PLA. PLA is polylactic acid, made from corn starch.

ADHESIVES / GUMMED PAPERS: The adhesive can be derived from corn.

ART SUPPLIES: Especially those geared towards kids, can contain corn-based ingredients, as these are generally considered to be a low allergy-risk (ha!) and non-toxic, as compared to petroleum-based ingredients. (source: News for Corn Avoiders)

BALLOONS: Can contain a dusting of cornstarch inside to keep the balloon from sticking to itself. (source: News for Corn Avoiders)

BEACH BALLS: Can contain a dusting of cornstarch inside to keep the ball from sticking to itself. (source: News for Corn Avoiders)

CARDBOARD: Many corrugated cardboards contain corn in some form or fashion. Keep in mind things like kids’ playhouses can sometimes include, or be made entirely of, corrugated cardboard. (source: News for Corn Avoiders)

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Where’s the Corn in Medical Supplies and Equipment?

Last updated:February 2017

This research was originally done by the creator of the blog called Hidden Corn. This blog is no longer maintained as the author  was no longer keeping up on the newest developments. I wanted it to remain available for people, so I took the data over and am soliciting help from a trusted friend to keep it up to date. We are making changes and additions as we note missing or outdated information.  Please comment or email me at cornallergygirl@gmail.com  if you see anything that is incorrect, or any broken links.

Do your legwork, people! Do it BEFORE you need medical care. And do your darndest to ensure you have someone who will advocate for you in those medical situations in which you are unable to advocate for yourself — this should be someone who is not timid about questioning medical care providers and who knows (for example) you need a saline IV rather than a glucose or dextrose IV and so forth.

ADHESIVES: Many corn allergics react to adhesives. I’m missing a source on why this is, but it’s been reported many times. If you need to avoid adhesives don’t claim it’s due to corn allergy, simply say that you have an adverse reaction to many adhesives.

ANTIBIOTICS: Corn is almost always the growth medium. There isn’t any avoiding this. If you need antibiotics, you’ll have to simply medicate to avoid a severe reaction.  Typical pre-medication would be an H1 antihistamine such as benadryl, an H2 antihistamine such as zantac or pepcid, and perhaps a prophylactic steroid. (Make sure you have corn free versions of all these!)  When taking any medication, you need to determine what the inactive ingredients are and from what they’re derived to choose something that is as corn-free as possible.  If you have time, it may be best to have your medications compounded to be as corn free as possible. Another option may be to use the intravenous version and that has a corn free ingredients list. Cross reference with the corn derivatives list  Keep in mind that even if the ingredients “look safe” you may still react to consider asking to trial a small amount of the medication before doing a full dose.

BODY BAGS: Can be made from corn. (source: Corn-Free Lifestyle)

BLOOD BAGS/BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS: Contain corn-based anticoagulants, specifically dextrose and citric acid. (2) If you need a blood transfusion, you need to medicate with a steroid, an h1 antihistamine such as benadryl, and an h2 anithistamine such as zantac or pepcid.  More info on premedication in my Hospital Safety post.

BLOOD PRESSURE CUFFS: Some folks report skin reactions due to the sanitizers used on these between patients. Bring the sleeve of an old t-shirt to put between you and the cuff if you have the presence of mind or have them take your BP over your shirt if you have sleeves on.

CT SCAN CONTRAST: The contrast solution, if flavored, will probably contain corn derivatives. Look for a contrast with the least amount of ingredients possible (will probably be unflavored), to be mixed in plain water. Ingredients should also be checked for IV contrasts. Note: reactions to CT contrast are common even in people without allergies, so radiologists may be more likely to understand concerns about reactions and have a protocol should you react.

DENTAL VISITS:  Pretty much all of the products used at a dental visit can be corny, from the medications and products themselves to the paper and gloves used for sanitation. Dental health is very important though, and many many corn allergics have managed safe dental care.  More on corn free dental care: Corn Allergy Safety at the Dentist.

HAND SANITIZER: Almost all hand sanitizer contains ethanol from corn, and even not very sensitive people will have airborne reactions to corn-derived ethanol. Hand sanitizers also frequently contain scents which can be a concern for corn or chemical sensitivity. They will also contain inactive ingredients  that are often from corn such as glycerin that may cause a contact reaction if someone touches you after using it.  If staff insists on using hand sanitizer near you ask them to wear (powder free) gloves afterwards.

HAND SOAP: Almost all liquid hand soaps contain glycerin which may be from corn as well as citric acid and other ingredients commonly derived from corn. If you are skin-reactive, you may have a contact reaction to someone touching you who has used these soaps, or if you are highly airborne reactive you may have issues breathing near someone who has used them. Here is one example ingredients list from an antimicrobial soap used in surgical settings.

GLOVES: Powdered surgical and exam gloves are often powdered with corn starch. Effective Jan 19, 2017 the US FDA has banned the sale and use of powdered surgical and exam gloves, so that’s good news for us corn allergy sufferers. It make take some time for full compliance, and non-medical settings may still make use of them.

INTRAVENOUS SOLUTIONS: Lactated Ringers’ solution contains sodium lactate, which is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid isn’t *always* fermented on corn sugar but several of the major distributors of the product do use corn sugar. Given the volume of production of sodium lactate for medical purposes I doubt there’d be a way to know for sure which supplier the lactic acid came from. Additionally dextrose/glucose is often added to intravenous solutions and injectables. Ask for a saline IV fluid.  If you are inpatient, consider making signs to hang on the IV stand stating no lactated ringers and no dextrose as nurses will not always check your charts at shift change or will mix you up with other patients. Realize that the nurses may still not read the IV stand and remind them. Train an advocate such as a family member or close friend before you need one to help remind them!

NON-MEDICINAL INGREDIENTS aka Preservatives and Excipients: Go HERE to read an excellent article about corn derivatives used in non-medicinal ingredients. The article was in the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia’s May/June 2007 newsletter; it may be an older newsletter, but the information is still extremely applicable!

MEDICATIONS: Inactive ingredients of pills, injections, and topical products may contain corn. Get package inserts and compare the active and inactive ingredients with the corn derivative list. Finding the Inactive Ingredients of Medications.  In many cases you may need to have a medication custom made to be corn free. This is called “compounding.” Getting Medications Compounded. Finding a Compounding Pharmacy.

PREFILLED SALINE FLUSHES for IV lines and catheters contain a preservative. Staff needs to get a vial of plain saline and draw it into a syringe and use that to flush your line.

SANITIZERS: I don’t have a source on why anti-microbial floor and surface cleaners in hospitals seem to be a concern for people who are airborne reactive to corn, but reports from the corn allergy community, and my personal experience show that they are. Some contain ethanol from corn, some don’t. It may be that corn allergics are often also chemically sensitive. All I know is that even when I can’t smell any cleaners in hospitals, I react the entire time I’m inside on just from breathing the air, and many other airborne-reactive corn allergics experience the same. I wear a carbon filter mask, and if in-patient, ask for them to only mop the floor in my room with water. I also bring in a HEPA filter for my room and run that and put a sign on the door to keep the door closed at all times, even if just coming in for a second.

SUTURES: Absorbable sutures may be made from PLA or polylactic acid, which is frequently made from corn.  I am told some non-dissolvable sutures may be dusted with corn starch, although I have no source to prove this. I have also heard reports of those with corn allergies reacting to sutures that should be corn-free, so exercise caution.

SYNTHETIC INGREDIENTS: If you are attempting to determine the source of an ingredient and are told it’s “synthetic,” don’t let that be the end of the line in your questioning or you will be taking a risk that your medication might contain a corny ingredient. See if you can find out which raw ingredients are used in the chemical process that creates the synthetic ingredient.

TUBING FOR OXYGEN MASKS: You may react, I don’t know if this is  corn starch dusting or what. Ask to have them wiped or rinsed with water.

TONGUE DEPRESSORS: Can be made from corn. (source: Corn-Free Lifestyle)

Where’s the Corn in Foods?

Last updated: April 15, 2016

This research was originally done by the creator of the blog called Hidden Corn. This blog is no longer maintained as the author  was no longer keeping up on the newest developments. I wanted it to remain available for people, so I took the data over and am soliciting help from a trusted friend to keep it up to date. We are making changes and additions as we note missing or outdated information.  Please comment or email me at cornallergygirl@gmail.com  if you see anything that is incorrect, or any broken links.

ACETIC ACID: This is the component of vinegar that smells “vinegary” to us. Like white vinegar, acetic acid is a fermentation product which is frequently grown on a corn glucose, corn malt steep, or corn mash. Reference.

AGAVE NECTAR: This sweetener is extracted from the starchy core of the agave cactus. The core is squeezed to extract juice and then the juice is processed via high-heat treatment or via fermentation to break down the fibers into a high-fructose syrup. This syrup is then filtered several times to remove any particulates. Entry point for corn is via cross contamination and could be at any stage in this multi-step process. References: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)

APPLES:Can be waxed with a wax that contains corn, or the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.  Organic apples are waxed with shellac or carnauba wax which are suspended in corn-based agents or solvents. Organic apples can also be sprayed with organic pesticides including those that are “mineral” or “clay-based”  that are suspended in corn-based solvents such as ethanol or corn-based coating agents. The wax and carriers for the pesticides can permeate the skin and contaminate the fruit beneath.

ASCORBIC ACID (Vitamin C):Supplemental ascorbic acid is typically a fermentation product grown on corn dextrose, corn glucose, or corn steep liquor. As an ingredient of another product, the acid isn’t labeled because it’s in a minute amount and considered insignificant by the U.S. FDA.

ACTIVATED CARBON/ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: Source for the carbon can be  wood, coconut, bamboo, bone, charcoal, or peat,  but could possibly be corn. Char then needs to be activated, and an acid can be used to activate. It appears that the most common acids used to activate are inorganic, meaning not from fermented acids such as citric acid or lactic acid that may have been grown on corn dextrose, but it seems it could be possible.

AVOCADOS:Can be gassed with ethylene from corn to ripen them.  These are also commonly waxed in a corn based wax to make them shiny and trees may be sprayed with all sorts of corn-based things just like anything else can be.

ALMONDS:Almonds grown in the US are required to be pasteurized. This pasteurization can be done using a number of methods including blanching, steaming, oil roasting, or application of propylene oxide. All of these may or may not add corn just depending on specific methods and sources used.

BAKING POWDER:A mixture of chemical leavening agents and starch. The starch is usually cornstarch, but Hain Featherweight uses potato starch. (Reactions reported to Hain by the most sensitive, probably due to cross contamination.)

BANANAS:Can be gassed with ethylene from corn to ripen them.  Some producers use treatments to keep them fresh longer which are often more corny than the gassing which is done to ripen.  Some markets can special order ungassed from their suppliers if requested but it takes some leg-work.  Even ungassed are often treated with anti fungals and other products to keep them fresh, be thorough and do your research to ensure safety.

BEEF:The cow may have been fed corn as part of its diet. Even some grass-fed cows are finished with corn to help fatten them up. If you are able to source a cow that has been grass-fed *and* grass-finished, there are several potential “corn hurdles” to overcome during the processing of the animal.

BEEF – PROCESSING:The meat may be sprayed with lactic acid, citric acid, distilled white vinegar from corn, or some other anti-bacterial agent before the meat is hung to age – an anti-bacterial agent is recommended for cattle that are not pasture-fed and –finished (see discussion <a href="http://forums.delphiforums.com/avoidingcorn/messages?msg=9634.11″>here). During the processing, the equipment and/or meat may be sprayed with an anti-bacterial. The processed meat may be packaged on a Styrofoam tray containing a citric acid-saturated soaker pad underneath the meat, and then wrapped with shrinkwrap or plastic wrap. More on corn free meat processing. 

BERRIES:May have been treated with citric acid. May have had corny fertilizers, antifungals, or pesticides applied. (Even organic berries.) Green composite cartons may contain corn.  <a href="http://cornallergygirl.com/2013/04/18/how-organic-berries-end-up-corn-taminated/”>See Corn-tamination Series post for more details.

BUTTER – SALTED:Avoid “light” butters and flavored butters, which generally contain a whole host of “corny” ingredients. If the salt is iodized, it may contain dextrose, which is “corny.” Some folks react to the corn in the cow’s diet.  Butter wrappers may be corn waxed also the ink or paper may be made of corn.  Your more likely to have success with butter not wrapped in paper from grass fed cows with minimal additives.

BUTTER – UNSALTED:May contain lactic acid (sometimes unlabeled!)  and/or “natural flavoring.” Avoid “light” butters and flavored butters, which generally contain a whole host of “corny” ingredients. Some folks react to the corn in the cow’s diet.

CANNED BEANS:BPA-free lining can be made from corn resin.  Salt added can be corny.  Some places filter the water through corny filters in an attempt to improve the taste (while others just baseline use corny water from the tap).

CANNED BROTH/STOCK:Corn may have been one of the broth ingredients. May contain canola oil, which can contain a “corny” citric acid. Filtered water (an ingredient in some brands of broth) can be “corny,” depending on the filter used. Other ingredients which may be corny include MSG, “natural flavorings,” seasonings, and spices.

CANNED FISH:The fish could have been packed in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slurry_ice”>slurry ice containing propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, and ethanol, all from corn, on the boat, or could be transferred to slurry ice-lined display counters at stores. Some frozen fish, especially wild alaskan salmon, are dipped in a glaze before freezing that either <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=Xr6hTgLRoLIC&pg=PA252&lpg=PA252&dq=frozen+fish+glaze+solution+corn+syrup&source=bl&ots=pHrWzcZ_1q&sig=e7dcDnH2pAeIt9nh8yHfC59ibUc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oyGuUYnvO4rargH_loHQBQ&ved=0CE4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=frozen%20fish%20glaze%20solution%20corn%20syrup&f=false”>contains corn products (<a href="http://wildlife.tamu.edu/files/2010/04/6_Freezing_Fish.pdf”>second reference) or is actually just <a href="http://www.desirefish.com/preparation.html”>corn syrup mixed with water. Some canned fish products contain vegetable broth, which is often “corny”. Other ingredients which may be corny include citric acid, flavorings, seasonings, and spices. BPA-free lining can be made from corn resin.

CANNED FRUITS (including Applesauce):Can contain artificial sweeteners, ascorbic acid, cellulose, citric acid, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, “natural flavor,” sorbitol, spices, and/or sucralose. Cross-contamination may be a concern. Plastic containers can be problematic for some. Cleanser used in glass jars can be problematic for some.

CANNED SOUP:BPA-free lining can be made from corn resin and any of the ingredients are potential corn sources just like anything else.

CANNED VEGGIES (including Tomato products):Can contain calcium chloride (???), citric acid, “natural flavor,” seasonings, spices, vinegar. Cross-contamination may be a concern. Tomato products often have citric acid or ascorbic acid added to adjust the pH level and to prevent spoilage — as an ingredient of another product, the acid doesn’t have to be labeled because it’s in a minute amount and considered insignificant by the FDA. BPA-free lining can be made from corn resin.

CANOLA OIL:Processed with citric acid and hexane (a petroleum-based solvent);Citric acid can be added to the oil as a degumming agent. (second source) If the oil is in a plastic bottle, the bottle can be corn-derived.  This oil is typically the least safe of all oils due to practices used to make it.

CARAMEL:Commercial food producers often use corn syrup to make caramel, although it can be made, instead, from cane sugar or beet sugar. Caramel can be used as a flavoring or a coloring.

CARROTS – BABY and/or WHOLE – BAGGED:May contain citric acid as an anti-bacterial.  Root vegetables are more likely to soak up whatever was used to fertilize or keep pests away in the soil and can present more problems than other vegetables.

CHEESE:Vegetarian enzymes and vegetarian rennet can be corny; see also “Vegetarian Rennet”. In particular, the enzyme “chymosin” can be grown on a genetically-modified corn base. Many microbial rennets contain propylene gylcol from corn. Cornstarch can be used as a non-stick agent in the packaging or on the conveyor belt, or as a non-caking agent in pre-shredded cheese. The waxy coating can be corny. The coloring can be corny (ex:annatto, which is often made with cornstarch). Also beware if the cheese contains vinegar, flavoring, or cellulose. For more information please see the Corntamination series article on cheese.

CHERRIES: Can be sprayed with antimicrobial sprays or rinsed in citric acid. Cherries are often stored in antimicrobial or modified atmosphere packaging to prevent molding. No references yet on what this packaging is made of but many reactions reported including instant rashes on contact with the packaging.

CHLORINE:Cornstarch can be used as a de-clumping agent.  Chlorinated tap water, pools etc may cause issues as will household bleach.

CITRIC ACID:Cultures of the mold Aspergillus niger are fed on a sugary solution, often corn-based (in spite of the word “citric” being part of the ingredient name), to create citric acid. Reference. Citric acid can be used as a flavoring and/or preservative in MANY foods, including raw meat and fresh produce (including organic), medications (OTC and prescription), personal hygiene products, and so on. As an ingredient of another product, citric acid isn’t labeled because it’s a minute amount and considered insignificant by the U.S. FDA.

CITRUS FRUITS:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.  Are another fruit typically treated with anti fungal products to prevent molding.  Know your farmer.

COCOA POWDER:  Grinding equipment cleaned with corn products/shared.  Packaging can be corny.  Commonly treated with ph balancing agents during dutching process of making cocoa (raw cocoa avoids that process and raw whole beans are often easier to find safe, but as with anything, use caution).

COCONUT – PROCESSED:Cornstarch can be used as a de-clumping agent. Corn may also be hidden in the form of sulfites or sulfates that are used to maintain the snow-white color.

COFFEE:Wet process harvesting can introduce corn in a number of ways via chemicals and cross contamination. Roasting can involve corn-derived disinfectants, flavorings, or preservatives. Beans can be polished with dextrose. Decaffeination is either done with corny chemicals or with the swiss water process that can introduce cross contamination. Packaging can be lined with corn plastic, dusted with corn starch, or oiled with corn oil. <a href="http://cornallergygirl.com/2013/05/11/corn-tamination-series-coffee/”>See the Corn-tamination Series post for details.

COOKING OILS:If bottled in plastic, the bottles can be corn-derived. The oils can be rendered corny during refining. Need to determine what is used during the extraction process (alcohol or other medium?), and if any defoaming agents are used.

CORN-ANYTHING:Cornmeal, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, popcorn, etc. If it has corn in its name, it’s pretty certain to be a problem. Cornstarch can be used in the manufacturing of a variety of products yet not be listed on the label of those products (example:sliced cheeses, Quaker oats, sanitary napkins, some gelatin capsules, etc.).

CORNED BEEF:Corned beef is cured with coarse salt that resembles kernels of corn. However, processed meats, including corned beef, often contain dextrose, food starch, or corn syrup, so don’t assume corned beef is corn-free unless you’ve made it yourself or have done meticulous research about corned beef you’re purchasing, or receiving, from someone else.

COW’S MILK:Lowfat and nonfat milks are enriched; see “Vitamins” for more information. The carrier used for the vitamins can be corny (ask if propylene glycol or polysorbates are used in the carrier). Vitamin D is often suspended in corn oil and the manufacturer will not usually realize that unless they double check with their supplier. The milk container can be corny. The cows’ diet may have contained corn (a problem for some folks). Whole organic milk will be a safer choice, but not all brands of whole organic milk are corn-free.

CROSS-CONTAMINATION:Sometimes a corn-free product will become “corny” due to cross-contamination. Examples:a corn-free grain processed on the same line or in the same facility as corn; a corn-free cow processed after a corn-taminated cow; grocery store bulk bins can be a source of cross-contamination. For grains, finding a company that processes only one type of grain helps prevent cross-contamination concerns.

CUCUMBERS:Can be waxed with a wax that contains corn, or the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.

DATES:Dates are frequently have to be manually pollinated either by human hand or machinery in order to produce adequantely, and the pollen is mixed with some kind of filler. This is ferquently wheat flour but *could* also be corn starch.

DEXTRIN:Thickening agent often made from cornstarch. Can be found in sauces, dressings, and ice cream.

DEXTROSE:Also known as ” glucose” or “corn sugar”. A simple sugar often made from corn. Used in a variety of foods, including cookies, ice cream, and sports drinks. Also shows up in prepared foods that are supposed to be crispy, such as french fries, fish sticks, and tater tots. Common in IV solutions, which can be quite dangerous for the corn-allergic.

DIGLYCERIDES:Glycerides can be derived from animal or vegetable (including corn), or may be synthetically-made. They act as emulsifiers and are used in bakery products, beverages, ice cream, gum, shortening, whipped toppings, margarine, and confections.

EGGPLANT: Can be waxed with a wax that contains corn, or the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.

EGGS:A chicken’s diet nearly always contains corn. Additionally, xanthophylls, which is a source of coloring agents for yolks, is now being extracted from corn gluten to add to chicken feed — it doesn’t have to be on the ingredients list because it’s not an ingredient, rather it’s a tool used to get the eggs to look nicer without tampering with the end product. The eggs may have been washed with an egg detergent/sanitizer, which could be derived from corn, and then wiped with an edible oil to replace the natural barrier that was removed in the cleaning process — the edible oil could be mineral oil or a corny vegetable oil. Eggshells are porous, so what’s on the outside of the egg can possibly end up inside, if even in a very minute amount. If you’re buying eggs from a farmer’s market or an individual, be sure to ask how they handle their eggs.

ENRICHED / “FORTIFIED” FOODS:See “Vitamins”.

EXCIPIENTS:Substances used to bind the contents of a pill or tablet. Can be derived from corn.

EXTRACTS (ex:vanilla extract):These are usually in a corn alcohol, or extracted with corn alcohol. If the extract is alcohol-free, it can contain glycerin, which is often corn-derived. Alcohol-free vanilla (and corn-free vanilla) are often extracted using corn alcohol, then the alcohol is evaporated off leaving behind the corny residue, and then this is added to other liquids. If the vanilla was created using this method, it is not corn-free and has just as much allergen risk as regular corn-alcohol vanillas. For it to be a truly corn-free vanilla extract, it must be extracted by non-corn-derived ingredients, and contain only non-corn-derived ingredients.

FISH:  The fish could have been packed in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slurry_ice”>slurry ice containing propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, and ethanol, all from corn, on the boat, or could be transferred to slurry ice-lined display counters at stores. Some frozen fish, especially wild alaskan salmon, are dipped in a glaze before freezing that either <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=Xr6hTgLRoLIC&pg=PA252&lpg=PA252&dq=frozen+fish+glaze+solution+corn+syrup&source=bl&ots=pHrWzcZ_1q&sig=e7dcDnH2pAeIt9nh8yHfC59ibUc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oyGuUYnvO4rargH_loHQBQ&ved=0CE4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=frozen%20fish%20glaze%20solution%20corn%20syrup&f=false”>contains corn products (<a href="http://wildlife.tamu.edu/files/2010/04/6_Freezing_Fish.pdf”>second reference) or is actually just <a href="http://www.desirefish.com/preparation.html”>corn syrup mixed with water.

FLOUR – BLEACHED:According to the U.S. FDA’s guidelines, it’s possible for bleached flour to contain cornstarch without any obvious mention on the label, because cornstarch is allowed as a diluent for some bleaching agents. Since the flour is labeled as “bleached”, you’re supposed to understand that it could contain any of the many bleaching agents and their inactive ingredients.

FLOUR:The vitamins in “enriched” or “fortified” flour can be corny, as can the carrier used to transfer them into the flour. There can be cross-contamination in the facility that processes the flour if they also process any kind of corn products, especially cornstarch or cornmeal. See also “Flour – Bleached”.

FRUCTOSE:A simple sugar often made from corn. Usually seen in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

FRUIT:(also refer to the individual fruits) Gases, waxes, washes, and coatings — things to retard spoilage and bacteria — can be corn-derived. For folks who are super sensitive to corn, the fertilizer and pest control can be problematic if they contain corn derivatives. For some individuals, things grown with manure from animals which were fed corn can be problematic, as can fish emulsion. Even organic growers can use fish emulsion, and the emulsion is from farmed fish, which are fed corn (and gluten), so the corn is not only in the fish but also in the water, and, therefore, all over the fish, and the emulsion is sprayed all over the fruit trees / plants. Soap sprays used on plants / trees can be corny. For some people, fruit grown near corn can create enough of a cross-contamination to cause a reaction.

GARLIC:Can be treated with an anti-sprouting agent.

GRAPEFRUIT:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.

GRAPES:May have been sprayed with a “corny” anti-fungal.

HERBS:Dried herbs can be treated with a corny preservative.

HONEY:Some beekeepers use corn syrup in the winter as a supplemental food for their bees. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/) Honey hives located near corn fields can be problematic for some corn-sensitive individuals.  Sprays used to prevent illness in bee hives can be corn based.  Honeycombs can also be made of corn wax instead of actual beeswax.

INVERT SUGAR SYRUP:A mixture of glucose and fructose, and can contain citric or asorbic acid.

JAMS/JELLIES:Pectin often contains dextrose/dextrins as the stabilizer. The dextrose/dextrins do not have to be listed on the label of jams/jellies/preserves because ingredients of ingredients do not have to be listed.

JUICE CONCENTRATES:These generally have either citric acid or asorbic acid added to adjust the pH level as needed; both acids can be corn-derived.

KUMQUATS:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.  Fruit is also typically gassed in corn ethanol like most citrus.

LACTASE: Lactase is an enzyme that is frequently produced via fermentation. This fermentation can be on a medium containing corn. Reference.

LACTIC ACID:Like citric acid, lactic acid is a preservative and a disinfectant. Industrial production  of lactic acid is via fermentation of sugar, which is usually corn sugar. Not all lactic acid is from corn sugar, but the major American manufactures use corn sugar.

LACTOSE:  can be made from corn or separated from whey using corn-based alcohol.

Last updated:October 2, 2013

LEMONS:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.  Fruit is also typically gassed in corn ethanol like most citrus.

LIMES:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.  Fruit is also typically gassed in corn ethanol like most citrus.

MALT; MALT SYRUP; MALT EXTRACT:Malt is germinated grain — often barley, but it can be any grain, including corn, which is typically cheaper than barley. Unspecified malt on a label is probably not barley. Malt can be found in alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, chocolate, breakfast cereals, etc.

MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT:Can be found in cereals. Usually extracted using grain alcohol and the grain is usually corn. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

MALTODEXTRIN:A thickening agent often made from cornstarch. Can be found in sauces, dressings, and ice cream.

MAPLE SYRUP: Almost all maple syrups may have had a de-foaming agent used, and that de-foaming agent can be corny. The most common currently is Atmos 300 which contains citric acid. Other defoamers may still contain corn or be cross contaminated with corn. Canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil,  butter, cream are common non-chemical defoamers that can still cause a corn reaction when used in maple syrup.

MEDICATIONS:OTC meds contain a list of inactive ingredients, which are used to hold the preparation together in an easily-measured dosage. Prescription meds, on the other hand, are not required to list those inactive ingredients. Common excipients, or medicinal fillers and binders, that can be derived from corn include, but are not limited to, alcohol, artificial flavoring, microcrystalline cellulose (and anything else with the word “cellulose”), citric acid, cornstarch (or simply “starch” or “modified food starch”), dextrose, glucose, glycerine, lactate, maltose, mannitol, propylene glycol, saccharin, sorbitol, xanthan gum, and zein. Information about getting medications compounded to exclude corn derivatives can be found here.

MOLASSES:Can contain added colorings, which can be corn-derived, and sometimes corn syrup. Molasses producers often use a defoamer during the processing, and that defoamer can be derived from corn. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

MONOGLYCERIDES:Glycerides can be derived from animal or vegetable (including corn), or may be synthetically-made. They act as emulsifiers and are used in bakery products, beverages, ice cream, gum, shortening, whipped toppings, margarine, and confections.

MSG:A flavor enhancer used in many packaged and prepared foods, produced by the fermentation of starch (including corn), sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses.

MUSHROOMS:May be grown on a “corny” medium. See Corn-tamination Series post for details.

NATURAL FLAVOR(S):How were the flavors extracted? If with grain alcohol, which grain? (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

NON-DAIRY MILKS:The carrier used for the vitamins can be corny (ask if propylene glycol or polysorbates are used in the carrier). Vitamin D is almost always suspended in corn oil and the manufacturer will not usually realize that unless they double check with their supplier. The milk container can be corny. Stabilizers, preservatives, sweeteners, and flavorings may be added and may contain corn.

NUTS:Need to inquire how they’re pasteurized, what is used for pest control during growth and also after harvest, and if they are washed after processing (if so, with what?). Can be cross-contaminated during manufacturing (cleaner used on lines may be corny; other products used on the same line may be corny; workers may be wearing cornstarch-powdered gloves). Packaging may be corny. Loose nuts can be cross-contaminated in bulk bins at stores. Salt and/or seasonings may be corny.

ORANGES:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.  Fruit is also typically gassed in corn ethanol like most citrus.  Also treated with anti fungals like other fruit and often dyed to make it more “orange”.

ORGANIC:The use of the “organic” label does not necessarily equate to a product being corn-free — corn can be organic, after all. Produce preservatives, washes, and waxes can be corn-based. Pesticides which are corn-based and fertilizers which contain corn can be organic; corn gluten can be used as a pre-emergent herbicide. Organic canned goods can contain an “organic” citric acid. Organic meats can be processed with a corny wash/anti-bacterial. Organic potato chips can contain corn-based dextrose and maltodextrin. (source:News for Corn Avoiders)

ORGANIC FRUIT:Can still be waxed. Rather than using a wax that contains corn, carnauba wax or shellac are used, but the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.

PASTA:Beware “enriched” or “fortified” pastas; see “Vitamins” for more information. Cross-contamination can be a concern if the pasta is processed on equipment, or in a facility, that processes corn products.

PEARS: Can be waxed with a wax that contains corn, or the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.  Organic pears are waxed with shellac or carnauba wax which are suspended in corn-based agents or solvents. Organic pears can also be sprayed with organic pesticides including those that are “mineral” or “clay-based”  that are suspended in corn-based solvents such as ethanol or corn-based coating agents. The wax and carriers for the pesticides can permeate the skin and contaminate the fruit beneath.

PECTIN:Dextrose/dextrins often used as the stabilizer. The dextrose/dextrins do not have to be listed on the label of jams/jellies/preserves because ingredients of ingredients do not have to be listed.

PEPPERS: Can be waxed with a wax that contains corn, or the carriers, flowing agents, and <a href="http://www.healthnowmedical.com/blog/2012/03/16/clinical-nutrition-report-an-apple-a-day-making-you-sick/”>solvents used to make the wax sprayable are corn-based.

PLASTIC:Corn can be chemically-inserted into plastic to make it more biodegradable. Corn can be used in adhesives. Plastic can have a cornstarch coating. Plastic can be directly made from corn.

PORK – PROCESSING:  The meat may be sprayed with lactic acid, citric acid, distilled white vinegar from corn, or some other anti-bacterial agent before the meat is hung to age – an anti-bacterial agent is recommended for cattle that are not pasture-fed and –finished (see discussion <a href="http://forums.delphiforums.com/avoidingcorn/messages?msg=9634.11″>here). During the processing, the equipment and/or meat may be sprayed with an anti-bacterial. The processed meat may be packaged on a Styrofoam tray containing a citric acid-saturated soaker pad underneath the meat, and then wrapped with shrinkwrap or plastic wrap. More on corn free meat processing. 

POTATOES:Can be gassed with ethylene from corn to ripen them; can be treated with a corn-derived anti-sprouting agent.

POULTRY – PROCESSING:The carcass may be sprayed with citric acid or some other anti-bacterial. The poultry may be packaged on a Styrofoam tray containing a citric acid-saturated soaker pad underneath the poultry, and then wrapped with shrinkwrap or plastic wrap. A whole chicken or turkey is usually wrapped in plastic. The inside of the packaging may contain cornstarch, to keep the poultry from sticking to the packaging. More on corn free meat processing. 

POULTRY:They are typically fed corn as part of their diet. If you are able to source a chicken or turkey that has not been fed corn, there are several potential “corn hurdles” to overcome during the processing of the animal. Turkey skin is sometimes waxed during plucking to help remove difficult pin feathers.

PRESERVES:Pectin often contains dextrose/dextrins as the stabilizer. The dextrose/dextrins do not have to be listed on the label of jams/jellies/preserves because ingredients of ingredients do not have to be listed.

PROCESSED MEATS (lunchmeats, sausages, hot dogs, etc.):They have to be preserved with *something*; oftentimes, salt…and, to counteract the saltiness, some kind of sugar/sweetener. The casings of sausages and hot dogs may be corny if they contain citric acid and/or a corny salt (these tend to be “natural” casings; collagen casings may be okay). Also, some people will react to the corn that was in the meat animal’s diet.

RICE:Beware “enriched” or “fortified” rices; see “Vitamins” for more information. Cross-contamination can be a concern if the rice is processed on equipment, or in a facility, that processes corn products. Can be dusted with cornstarch to prevent clumping. A starch, typically corn, can be used to polish the rice.

SAFFLOWER OIL:If bottled in plastic, the bottles can be corn-derived. Citric acid can be used as a degummer in safflower, sunflower, canola (rapeseed), soy, and flax oil.

SALAD MIX – BAGGED:May contain citric acid as an anti-bacterial.

SALT:Iodized table salt contains dextrose, which is added to stabilize the iodine compound in the salt. It is rare to find iodized salt in processed foods, although it’s good to check with the manufacturer. If you will be eating someone else’s homebaked goods, it would be worthwhile to ask about the salt they use. Canning/pickling salt is a good alternative. Some sea salts can be okay. For more information, see the Corn-tamination series post on salt.

SEASONINGS / SPICES:

SORBITOL:A sweet substance, but not a sugar, that occurs naturally in some stone fruits and berries, and is produced by the breakdown of dextrose. Can cause gastrointestinal distress. Used as a sugar substitute for diabetics, in the manufacture of Vitamin C, in diet foods, mints, cough syrups, sugar-free chewing gum, and some candies. Can also appear in oral hygiene products such as toothpaste and mouthwash, and can be found in cosmetics.

SOYBEAN OIL:If bottled in plastic, the bottles can be corn-derived. Citric acid can be used as a degummer in safflower, sunflower, canola (rapeseed), soy, and flax oil. Where’s the corn in citric acid?

SPICES:Dried spices can be treated with a corny preservative.

SQUASH (all):Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.

STARCH; FOOD STARCH; MODIFIED FOOD STARCH:Added starch in foods can come from several sources, but corn seems to be the most common. Unless the type of starch is specified, it’s likely cornstarch is present.

SUCROSE:Usually derived from cane or beet sugar, but I found a reference on a corn-free blog that someone spotted an English candy that included an ingredient of ” sucrose (from corn)” — I did a bit of Googling but didn’t find such a candy. When sucrose is an ingredient, it would be worthwhile to check the source of the sucrose (assuming there are no other corn-derived ingredients that would knock the food into the “not safe” category).

SUGAR – BROWN:If the ingredient just says “sugar,” need to determine if it’s cane sugar, beet sugar, or corn sugar. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

SUGAR – GRANULATED:The de-clumping agent is a starch, oftentimes cornstarch but sometimes tapioca is used instead.  If the ingredient just says “sugar,” need to determine if it’s cane sugar, beet sugar, or corn sugar. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

SUGAR – POWDERED:Ordinary table sugar that’s been reduced to a fine powder. Cornstarch is commonly added to prevent caking. A few brands are made with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, but they can be challenging to find (some are only offered during the holidays). If the ingredient just says “sugar,” need to determine if it’s cane sugar, beet sugar, or corn sugar. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

SUNFLOWER OIL:If bottled in plastic, the bottles can be corn-derived. Citric acid can be used as a degummer in safflower, sunflower, canola (rapeseed), soy, and flax oil.Where’s the corn in citric acid?

TANGELOS:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.

TANGERINES:Can be coated with a wax that contains corn.

TEA (Loose or Bagged):Loose tea can be sprayed with maltodextrin and/or dextrose to be preserved or to enhance inferior teas; may be more of a concern with herbal teas, flavored teas, or inferior plain-leaf teas. (source:Corn Allergy & Intolerance Facebook group) The tea bags themselves can be corny.

TOCOPHEROL:(mixed tocopherols, alpha tocopherol).  This is vitamin E and is produced via extraction from vegetable oil. That oil is most commonly corn or soy.

TOMATO PRODUCTS – CANNED:Often have citric acid or asorbic acid added to adjust the pH level and to prevent spoiling. As an ingredient of another product, the acid doesn’t have to be labeled because it’s in a minute amount and considered insignificant by the U.S. FDA.

TOMATOES:Can be gassed with ethylene from corn to ripen them.

TREACLE:A mixture of molasses and corn syrup; also known as “golden syrup”.

VANILLA (Extract and Pure Vanilla):Typically suspended in a corn-based alcohol. If the alcohol is corn-free, it can contain glycerin which is often corn-derived. Alcohol-free vanilla is often extracted using corn alcohol, then the alcohol is evaporated off leaving behind the corny residue, and then this is added to other liquids, resulting in this product not being corn-free in spite of being alcohol-free. [Can make corn-free vanilla extract by soaking 2 vanilla beans in 1 pint of potato or grape vodka for at least 6 weeks.]

VEGETABLE OILS:If bottled in plastic, the bottles can be corn-derived. Citric acid can be used as a degummer in safflower, sunflower, canola (rapeseed), soy, and flax oil.

VEGETABLE-ANYTHING:Unless you know exactly what the vegetables are, you should be suspicious of any ingredient with “vegetable” in the name, including vegetable oil, vegetable broth, vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and vegetable mono- and di-glycerides.

VEGETABLES:(also refer to the individual veggies) Gases, waxes, washes, and coatings — things to retard spoilage and bacteria — can be corn-derived. For folks who are super sensitive to corn, the fertilizer and pest control can be problematic if they contain corn derivatives. For some individuals, things grown with manure from animals which were fed corn can be problematic, as can fish emulsion. Even organic growers can use fish emulsion, and the emulsion is from farmed fish, which are fed corn (and gluten), so the corn is not only in the fish but also in the water, and, therefore, all over the fish, and the emulsion is sprayed all over the vegetable plants. Soap sprays used on plants can be corny. For some people, veggies grown near corn can create enough of a cross-contamination to cause a reaction.

VEGETABLES- FROZEN:In addition to the same problems as fresh veggies, the preparation for freezing can introduce corn via cross contamination or application of corn starch to prevent sticking, or the use of corn-derived antimicrobials in the water used to glaze the vegetables to help maintain their shape and integrity.

VEGETARIAN RENNET:Most contain caramel color, which can be derived from corn.

VENISON:Corn feeders may be set out prior to the opening of hunting season, to attract deer and to fatten them up. Commercially-processed venison will have the same “corn hurdles” as commercially-processed beef or poultry. The ground venison may contain beef fat, to offset the leanness of the venison.

VINEGARS:It’s common for vinegars to be made from corn. Do not assume all apple cider vinegars are corn-free, as some companies cut their ACV with distilled white vinegar.

VITAMIN D: Often suspended in corn oil when added to drinks such as milk or orange juice.

VITAMIN E (added to foods):Can be derived from corn or soy. (http://cornfreelifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/quick-post-no-corn-added/)

VITAMINS (added to foods):Vitamins and enrichments can contain cornstarch or microcrystalline cellulose and similar derivatives to help keep the vitamin mixture smooth and non-clumping and to help the mixture to be distributed more evenly throughout a product. This does not have to be listed as an ingredient because it’s a circumstantial ingredient without nutritional impact.

WATER – TAP:City water has things added to it – chlorine can have corn ingredient carriers, most fluoride does, sometimes buffering agents such as citric acid are added to change pH, coagulants are sometimes added to help aggregate small particles for better filtering, the filtering process can introduce corn, and depending on where the water is drawn from there can be contamination from agricultural runoff – pesticides/herbicides.

WATER SOFTENER SALT:The salt can contain citric acid. Look at the MSDS (the vendor or Google can help you out with that). Plain solar salt may be your best bet for a water softener (but check the MSDS!).

WATER – BOTTLED:Bottled water can have corn contamination from added vitamins, minerals, or flavorings, from the filtering process, and/or from corn-based PLA plastics.

WATER- FILTERED:t the activated charcoal in some water filters could be from corn, or could have been “activated” using a corn based acid. Filters that add minerals back in to the water will do so via corn-based carriers. There are reports of anitmicrobial polymers such as antimicrobial toilet seats causing BIG contact reactions with corn allergics. The actual housing of the water filter could be made from an antimicrobial polymer that is corny as well.

WINE:

XANTHAN GUM:Commonly fermented on a medium containing corn, soy, or wheat. Even when grown on a corn free medium the final product is often precipitated using ethanol from corn. Used as a thickener or emulsion-stabilizer. Can be found in commercially-prepared salad dressings, sauces, frozen foods, beverages, ice cream, egg substitutes, toothpaste, and in gluten-free foods (including homemade gluten-free baked goods). Can also be used as a stabilizer in cosmetics. There is an excellent description of how xanthan gum is made <a href="http://forums.delphiforums.com/AvoidingCorn/messages?msg=12801.1″>HERE.

XYLITOL: Often marketed as a “natural” sweetner, Xylitol can be a fermented on a corn medium or produced directly from corn cobs via hydrogenation. It can also be extracted from birch/beech, however corn ethanol is still used to precipitate the final product.

YEAST:Nearly all commercial yeast is grown on corn syrup, and it often contains asorbic acid as a stabilizer. Fresh yeast, however, may not have the asorbic acid.

ZEIN:A class of prolamine protein found in maize. It is usually manufactured as a powder from corn gluten meal. It may be labeled as “confectioner’s glaze” or “vegetable protein” (particularly for medications). It can be used as a coating on bakery products and produce; because it’s not water soluable it won’t rinse off produce. It can be used on cartons of doughnuts, crackers, pies, and cookies, because it’s grease-resistant. Other possible food uses:as a chewing gum base; as a rice coating for use in rice-containing premixes in order to make cooking times for all ingredients in the premix more uniform; and as a food coating to reduce fat absorption in high-fat foods. New agricultural uses:as a mulch or fertilizer coating, or as an edible hay bale wrapper. (sources:<a href="http://www.vrg.org/blog/2010/12/13/zein-used-for-shellac-biodegradable-coatings-diapers%E2%80%A6/”>http://www.vrg.org/blog/2010/12/13/zein-used-for-shellac-biodegradable-coatings-diapers%E2%80%A6/ -and- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zein)

Corn-tamination Series: Salt

Salt sounds like such a pure product, but actually *most* brands available for sale in the grocery store cause issues for those with corn allergies, even those of medium sensitivity. The below statements apply to sea salt and table salt both:

  • Packaging: Cardboard, especially recycled cardboard can contain corn fibers and may be dusted with corn starch to prevent it sticking together. Plastic may contain polymers from corn starch or may be dusted or oiled with corn products to prevent sticking.
  • Ingredients: Iodized salt contains dextrose from corn to help the iodine stick to the salt crystals. Non-iodized salt often contains an anti-caking agent, which may not be directly from corn but often causes more sensitive corn allergics to react, probably due to cross contamination.
  • Cross contamination: Companies that mine/extract/synthesize and package salt often produce a number of different products. Cargill is one example. Many of those products contain corny ingredients, and cross contamination is possible in the facilities.

The most sensitive folks with corn allergies actually have a very, very hard time with salt. In fact there is NO salt product out there that SOME corn allergic person hasn’t reacted to. Not one. You just have to pick some best bets based on who has reacted and how much their particular sensitivity matches yours, as people react differently to different derivatives.