Hidden Sources of Corn
In case you don’t know, corn has more than 200 names and uses in food, non-food products, medicine, and agriculture. Yes, let that sink in. Whilst I’ve personally managed a severe corn allergy for over a decade (and was previously undiagnosed), along with managing SO MANY other food allergies and food intolerances, here’s what I can tell you: corn is by far the absolute hardest ingredient to avoid. Soy would be number two, then a few odd ingredients, things you wouldn’t think of, such as garlic or carrot.
Why Is Corn So Hard to Avoid?
There are a few reasons avoiding corn is so hard. One: legally, it’s not classified as top/major allergen here in the United States (or anywhere else in the world). That means corn and its many many derivatives don’t have to be called out on labels.
Two: Government subsidies (in the United States) make corn a “cheap” product. Technically, it’s not cheap because your tax dollars are covering part of the bill. Yet on the surface, it seeeeeems cheap, therefore it’s abundant.
Three: No one can agree on derivatives. I personally DETEST when a company tells me “it was derived from corn but all the protein is gone, so it’s fine to eat”. No Jane, it’s NOT fine to eat. Maybe for some people, but would you say that to someone with a severe peanut allergy? Most wouldn’t, yet somehow, they’ve all believed the hype that XYZ is corn free because of how we processed it. No. It’s not. If it came from corn just tell people. Sheesh.
Four: SO MUCH is made from corn as I’ll share with you below. Due to this reason, it’s nearly impossible to avoid corn. You may want to grab this Top 10 Corn Free Products Guide. It will get you started on avoiding corn and building your pantry.
Obvious Sources of Corn
You may be familiar with corn chips, corn tortillas, corn flour, corn starch, and corn syrup as major sources of corn. Awesome. Maybe you’ve even heard of xanthan gum?
These are all obvious sources of corn and for some people, these are the only products they avoid. However, some with a corn allergy never reach neutral because the don’t realize there are so many other sources of corn.
In fact, there are so many, I won’t be able to cover them all in today’s article. For a much more robust list of corn and corn derivatives, read through this Corn Free Introduction Article which has links to all the things you’ll want to know.
Hidden Sources of Corn
Buckle up and be ready to be shocked if you’re new to being corn free. When most people learn about some of these sources, they’re simply left speechless. Then, it all starts to make sense… why they still feel sick, why some brands of foods never seem to go over well even though the label looks fine… well, you get the idea. Then they wonder, “what can I eat with a corn allergy?”
What’s important to know is that corn isn’t always the culprit. These days, sugar cane, wheat straw, and soy are all involved in making some of the items listed below. It means you’ll need to shop around and make loads of phone calls.
Top 10 Corn Free Products
If you’re struggling with what to eat when you have a corn allergy, start with my Top 10 Corn Free Products Guide.
What’s great about these top 10 truly corn free products is that I take everything into account. Product packaging, transportation, shared equipment with allergens, and a lot more. The more you learn about corn, the more you’ll realize there aren’t a lot of truly corn free products available.
However, here’s the hope I can give you: there are enough corn free products for you to thrive. Now, there will be a huge requirement of elbow grease, but, you can have your cake and eat it too. Quite literally. This Bakery Chocolate Cake recipe on RAISE for example is from our award winning bakery, and I outline all the ingredient sourcing which is truly corn free.
Batch cooking in conjunction with the use of truly corn free raw materials is what’s going to make your life manageable in the long run. I know this because I’m living proof. You CAN do this.
Corn In Plastic and Bio-Degradable Products
If you’ve ever picked up a plastic container and it has a “funky” feel to it, there’s a chance it’s corn derived. A lot of thin plastics also contain corn derivatives. Bio-degradable green produce bags in the grocery store are also usually corn derived. What this means for you: be very careful.
Farmer’s markets are a much safer place for people with a severe corn allergy. For someone like myself, the bigger issue is how those bio-degradable bags are EVERYWHERE in the store, including the conveyor belt at the checkout lane. I kid you not, I pick the lane based on what people in front of me have in their cart. The less exposure I have, the better.
Whilst I’m all for saving the planet, it sure would be nice if everyone didn’t look to corn as the solution. And yes, for those who are thinking it, a lot of foods are packaged in wrappers and containers that contain corn and/or corn derivatives.
Is There Corn In Fruit and Vegetable Wax?
Ever pick up your produce and have it feel waxy? That’s usually corn derived too. It’s pretty hard to find farms that don’t use the wax. Whilst I’ve been able to find 5, I know there are others out there. There is a Corn Free Course on how to source produce, as well as a course on meat sourcing on the RAISE website.
Also, it’s not just the wax. Banana, pineapple, and avocado are all usually sprayed with an ethylene corn derived gas ripening agent. It’s why you’ll be hard pressed to find these ingredients truly corn free.
Corn In Vanilla Extract
This is one of my personal favourites to talk about. What most people don’t know is that more than 90% of the WORLD’S supply of vanilla beans are sprayed with a corn derived drying agent during the harvesting process. I want you to pause and think about that.
Think about all of the places vanilla is used. More than 90 percent is already contaminated with corn. There aren’t many truly corn free options for vanilla, but you can find it, along with other truly corn free products in the Corn Free Safe Product Guide.
What makes this even more difficult is there are several products on the market that could be truly corn free if there wasn’t vanilla in the product. In fact, one of my favourite chocolate companies makes a truly corn free option, but it’s 100% pure dark. This can make it difficult to incorporate into baking projects if you’re not used to the bitterness of pure chocolate.
Is There Corn In Water?
If you haven’t read Our Story, it’s a good (long) read. One of the struggles during my diagnosis was water. First it had to be determined if I had a true water allergy (super rare) or if it was something else. Showering was so painful, and drinking water was like swallowing razor blades. Even with the water filters everyone in the corn free community was using at the time, I still couldn’t drink water without being in pain.
There finally came a point where I was given 30 days to live because my condition was just so poor. I was only able to choke down about 2 ounces of water a day, and nearly no food. That’s when I accidentally (read: the Lord blessed) found Raw Water Summit Spring. They have the only exemption in the United States to not treat the water.
Now, this is a BIG deal that if I try to explain will take at least 10 – 20 minutes more of you reading, so I won’t. You can look through these Corn Free Courses if you want more information. Bottom line, I’m allergic to the processing of water due to the chemicals and solutions used. This is the only water on the globe that doesn’t make me sick.
There’s a great company called Salacious Drinks, such sweet people, and they helped me import water from SO MANY countries, only for all of the water to fail. Summit Spring, literally the only water for me.
Corn In Cleaning Products (Home & Commercial Use)
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said corn is everywhere. Think about your laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, sponges, disinfectant wipes, and more. They can all contain corn derivatives. The only way to find out is to call the company, and not all of them are helpful. I’ve had the most luck with transparency from companies in the natural and organic space.
The bigger problem is when a corn derivative is a cleaning agent during food manufacturing. It means the conveyor belts and machinery used to process your food are essentially coated in corn for some of the production. Most companies when called about this detail have no clue. Many also don’t know if there’s corn starch in the latex gloves their employees use when handling the products. Yup, some people have to ask about that too.
Does Meat Contain Corn?
Let’s forget for a moment that most farm raised animals (and some farmed fish) in the United States are fed corn. Whilst it’s considered rare to not be able to eat these meats, it’s a thing. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who can’t eat the products of animals fed corn. Wahooo!
The bigger issue is the butchering process. Corn is in the wash. To top it off, there’s usually corn derivatives in the soaker pads used to package the meat. I know, isn’t this awesome?
So then, what do you do? You search high and low to find farmers that are doing things right. I only know of two companies available nationwide (via online ordering) and possibly a third.
Where your meats are concerned, you have to know what they were fed, what they were injected with, how they were butchered & processed, how they were packaged, AND if you purchase from a grocery store… You need to know how the store handled the meat as well. RAISE has a Corn Free Course on sourcing safe meat.
Corn In Medications
So, again, another very long topic. So long there’s a whole Corn Free Course devoted to the topic that also includes links to more resources. Having medication compounded is the only real solution for those who have a severe corn allergy.
Corn In Adhesives
I almost died one night… I was sitting in the bathroom unable to move and thought. Wow. How embarrassing that this is how I go. It took more than 20 minutes to put on pants and make it out of the room… My vitals were ALL OVER the place and I just knew, this was it.
The culprit: sticky tape. I had been working on a project putting together a paper prototype of our first cookbook, and it nearly killed me. Since then, we take my contact allergy VERY seriously. Well, it’s not to say we didn’t before that, but that experience really drove home to us just how little corn I can tolerate.
You may be able to tolerate touching tape, or you may be in my boat. If you’re like me, having someone else do all the touching can make a world of difference in the long run.
In fact! Just the other day we were shopping for a new car for me (that’s going to be a huge process by the way). I touched a steering wheel for maybe 10 seconds? My fingers were burning after that. Someone else had done all of the touching for me up to that point, and because of the burning, we opted not to take a test drive that day.
Corn In, Well, Everything
As I said earlier, corn is essentially in everything. It can be really hard to navigate the modern world whilst avoiding corn. Here’s the good news though: all the resources you need to get started already exist.
The Corn Free Safe Product Guide alone will save you hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls and emails. You download the list and boom, you can start shopping some of the safest and cleanest brands I can vouch for.
When you tap into articles, courses, and safe product list on RAISE, suddenly you’ll find the journey isn’t nearly as hard. Honestly, I do all of this because I was there once, on day one looking at a grocery store, only to realize I could buy ONE item. Out of the thousands of products, ONE.
Being new is devastating in its own way and had RAISE been a thing back then, oh man would my life have been a million times easier.
So Then, What Can You Eat With A Corn Allergy?
The great news is, a LOT! Now, most of you reading have a corn allergy and maybe you’re also gluten free and something else. On our sister site RAISE, I’ve tried to account for all of that. The Advanced Recipe Search has more than 85 filters for major allergens, less common allergens, special diets, meal types, and special features such as freezer friendly. Take it for a spin and see what you CAN eat with a corn allergy.
When thinking about your corn free plate, it’s good to start with major food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, and starches. In the case of protein, you’ll generally want to avoid all poultry when you have a corn allergy, unless you’ve found a farmer that doesn’t feed the animals corn. But remember, it’s more than just the feed.
With produce, start at the farmer’s market so you can talk to the source. For starches, ask companies about shared equipment, as there are very few starches made on corn free equipment. The Corn Free Safe Product Guide has a list of brands to start with.
No matter where you are on your journey, I wish you all the best in finding foods that are safe and delicious!!