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Published on February 20th, 2009 | by Gina Munsey

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Corn-Allergy Sufferers Face Hidden Corn Everywhere

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Corn Allergy ImageLick a gummed envelope flap to seal it, and you’ve just tasted corn.  Lather up with shampoo, and you’ve got corn seeping in to your pores.  Brush your teeth, and you’ve got corn in your mouth.  Walk past the perfume counter in any department store, and you’ve just inhaled corn into your lungs.  The madness doesn’t end here.  Corn is everywhere.

For those of us with corn allergies, it’s not just the corn-on-the-cob and the hush-puppies that are the problem, thank you very much.  No, it’s the vitamin D in fortified milk, the food-grade wax coating fresh produce, the dextrose mixed into iodized salt, the citric acid used to rinse loose greens and baby carrots, and the cornstarch filler in baking powder. A friend of mine used to joke that I couldn’t even drink water, and that’s not far-fetched.  If you’ve taken a sip from a bottle of mineral-enhanced water recently, you’ve swallowed corn.

Since corn isn’t recognized as a Top 8 Allergen, its presence in a product isn’t indicated on the allergy warning label. Even a careful read of the ingredients list doesn’t do a whole lot to quell a corn-allergy sufferer’s fear, as corn is often hidden in innocent-sounding ingredients such as vitamin E, vegetable oil, and of course, natural flavors. And that’s not even mentioning the packaging, which is increasingly corn-based.

Even the best organic food is not exempt from the curse.  Corn is in the adhesive which holds fair-trade tea bags together, and in the citric acid added to organic applesauce.  It’s in the soaker pad under that cut of beef, and in packets of yeast disguised as ascorbic acid.

So what’s the solution when going organic isn’t enough?  If there is one thing my corn allergy has taught me, it’s that remaining passive about food production and consumption is not only irresponsible, it’s actually detrimental to my health.  Necessity demands a proactive approach.  I need to take charge of my food consumption, contact food growers and producers, and know exactly what has touched my food before I put it in my mouth.

And, food allergies or not, shouldn’t that be the norm for all of us?

Image via Gaetan Lee on Flickr via a Creative Commons License



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About the Author

Gina was born in Mexico, but spent her early childhood years in Eastern Europe. She gained her Associate and Bachelor degrees from schools in California and Michigan, respectively, and was mostly recently employed in the Business Systems field in California. Diagnosed with a corn allergy in her early twenties, Gina has taken on the challenge of living corn-free -- as well as dairy, wheat, and gluten-free -- in a corn-saturated world. She currently lives in beautiful Northern California. Gina loves her husband, watering her plants, writing poetry and blog posts, creating collages, browsing art galleries, eliminating toxic chemicals, reading the Bible, doing laundry, reading cookbooks and substituting ingredients in recipes, collecting broken shells from the beach, repurposing everyday objects, and watching curtains dance over open windows. Follow her on Twitter @gmunsey.



  • http://www.CornAllergySymptoms.com Corn Allergy Kim

    My son and I are both allergic to corn, it is very difficult to live with. I think many people are allergic to corn and don’t even know it.

  • Kay Britton

    After years of work, I finally got my gluten allergy under control and had a pretty good handle on what I could eat, wash my hair with, use as body lotion, etc. Now, I have developed an allergy to corn and I am overwhelmed with hidden corn in just about everything. Thank you for this website, it has helped open my eyes and I have learned some things that will help me conquer this one too. Gluten was a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to what I am facing with this corn problem.

  • Carolyn

    hi
    in another posting you mention “corn-free brands” of baking poweder – could you list some? I’ve been trying to make my own with baking soda and cream of tartar…
    Thanks!

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/gmunsey Gina Munsey

    I love Hain Pure Foods’ Featherweight Baking Powder. The ingredients are Monocalcium phosphate, potato starch, & potassium bicarbonate.
    http://www.hainpurefoods.com/products/product.php?prod_id=1842

  • Sandra

    I have food sensitivities to both corn and potatoes as well as rice, soy, eggs and numerous and sundry others. My husband has celiac disease and has developed a sensitivity to corn. He also has other sensitivities. It’s so difficult to eat these days. It would be so much easier to feed us with a pill….but that would involve corn, wouldn’t it!

  • http://Web Aristotle

    I’ve found a cool product called Mini Pops which is corn-free popcorn. It tastes just like popcorn but it’s popped sorghum grain. myminipops.com is their website

  • http://Web isa garofola

    This short article has confirmed my suspicions about my corn intake. I know that I am ingesting allergens regularly but never knew the source. Since corn is one of my worst allergens, I can see that many of the things that I regularly ingest probably contain corn. The sad thing is that when I am in Europe I do not have this problem. My allergies are much better and I have few reactions when eating carefully. The corn subsidies in this country must go.
    Thank you for the very helpful information.

  • http://Web Jenn

    I am not allergic to corn, but I am vegetarian and have been learning about the uses of animals for gene production in GMOs. I wish to eliminate the presence of corn in my life as much as a severely allergic individual would, and the proactive approach you mentioned is my norm now too. Since 86% of North America corn is GMO I’ve decided to simply eliminate the ingredient. I am mentioning this because although there may not be a tremendous corn allergy public (enough to place in top 8), there is a larger circle when the vegan/vegetarian community is included. More people means more support for stricter food labeling across the board.

  • http://Web Rebecca

    For the last 20 years I’ve suffered health problems all over the scale. Multiple doctors gave me multiple medicines, but nothing worked. A fabulous naturopath weaned me off of all the medicines and put me on an allergen-free diet, something that radically changed my world. After a couple years of trial and error (and lots of rashes, sinus infections, and other auto-immune issues) we finally narrowed the culprit down to corn. The worst? High fructose corn syrup. But it all affects me… down to the “maltodextrin” and “natural flavors”.

    The interesting part of this (and of many people’s stories) is that I didn’t start out allergic to corn. I ate corn all the time as a kid.. never had any problems with it. Then, at about 10 years old, my world crumbled. I gained tons of weight, had constant sinus infections… and the doctor parade began. Oddly enough, that’s about the same time a particular species of Monsanto GMO corn was introduced to our diets.

    Once I cut corn out of my diet.. I dropped nearly 30 pounds without trying. These days, if I accidentally ingest some, I end up gaining 10 pounds of water weight over night! Looking at the “obesity epidemic”, I frequently find myself wondering how much of it can be attributed to undiagnosed food allergies. Goodness knows most doctors won’t even check! I actually had a physician tell me that I couldn’t possibly be allergic to corn syrup.

    And with all the stuff I have read about GMOs.. I honestly think it is no wonder that food allergies, cancer, and obesity are on the rise.

    As another individual has commented, when I am in Europe I do not suffer nearly as much. I’m not sure how much is due to their ban on the species of corn I mentioned before, and how much is due to the fact that corn isn’t hidden in every tiny thing they produce.. but it has definitely grabbed my attention!

    Thank you for your article.. I intend to share this with my friends.. particularly the non-corn-allergy people, who simply cannot understand why I am so “weird” about my food (and other products). Corn literally is “everywhere”.. and it is truly “hidden” in the vague ingredient statements… something that makes life very difficult for allergy sufferers.

  • http://Web Lori

    My 16 month old was just diagnosed with corn, milk, egg, and pork allergy. In addition to her new diet I have a four year old type one diabetic. I’m a little stressed with meeting the needs of two needy kids. Any ideas or tricks would be greatly appreciated.

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