shopping tips for a corn allergy

November 3, 2009 at 11:59 am 8 comments

With the long list of foods my son is allergic to, corn is by far the hardest to avoid because it is in almost everything and the FDA does not require manufacturers to clearly list it on products.

Corn photoAvoiding corn isn’t as simple as ruling out corn on the cob and cornbread and things sweetened with corn syrup. The problem is that corn is in almost every food manufactured in America today and the label doesn’t have to say corn on it.

I think the most important rule to follow is to assume something has corn in it unless it explicitly says, no corn or does not contain corn. If it doesn’t say that, then you won’t know whether it contains corn unless you understand what absolutely everything is or what it is derived from. Some labels are easy to read. Some have chemical names and are not easy to read unless you’re a chemist or a food scientist.

corn goes by a thousand different names

Read the label. If it has any ingredient ending in ose, assume that ingredient is derived from corn. Call the manufacturer or e-mail them and ask them if their product contains corn. (I have often called a company while standing in a store with package in hand.)   If they say no, then ask them the source of such and such an ingredient.  Often that mystery ose item is derived from cottonwood instead of corn, so you’re good to go.   Sometimes the answer is vegetable. This answer has been quite annoying, but sometimes that is the only answer readily available.  For a corn allergy, one must assume that vegetable really means corn, because usually it does.

Starch or food starch most likely means corn. You need to ask what the source is. Citric acid is often derived from corn (sounds like it would be from citrus, doesn’t it?)

corn is in many vitamins and medications

Look at all medications and vitamins. Most vitamins (except oils) are grown in corn. There are a few companies dedicated to making corn free vitamins.  Corn is used in both over the counter and prescription medications.  Depending on the severity of your corn allergy, perhaps taking the corn product outweighs your allergic reaction. For others who have severe breakouts, hives or anaphalactic shock, it’s necessary to avoid corn no matter what. Zyrtec, Claritin, ibuprofin, aspirin, etc. all contain corn.

corn is added to meats

Read your beef, pork and chicken labels. You need to look for contains up to 4% retained water (or similar percentage). Most chicken is enhanced with or contains 12% natural chicken broth.  This natural broth usually contains corn. Avoid it! Don’t go by the word “natural” on the label. Look for the teeny weeny fine print that says what has been added or retained.

You’ll probably need to stay away from deli meats and pickled items as these all could contain corn. Unless you verify with the manufacturer, you must assume that corn was used in the pickling or aging process. Here’s an interesting page all about curing agents.

corn is often added to fresh produce

That beautiful shiny apple at your grocery store could contain corn. Just yesterday, my son turned all red and splotchy from an apple he ate even though I scrubbed it like crazy to remove any waxy coating.  So watch your fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes buying organic is necessary (but don’t assume because something is organic that it is safe).

corn is in table salt

Yes — believe it not, corn is used in the iodization process in common table salt.  That means that anything that contains salt at the store could contain trace amounts of corn. Because my son’s corn allergy is so severe and he reacts to trace amounts of corn, I look for products that contain sea salt or that are salt free.  Use sea salt in your cooking. You can find this right next to the iodized salt at the grocery store, but read your label. Some sea salt contains anti-caking agents that (I’m not sure) could contain corn. I buy mine from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or the Good Foods Market.

so what can I buy and where do I shop?

  • Whole Foods has removed products containing high fructose corn syrup from their shelves. That helps a lot: It doesn’t mean that all corn has been removed from the store, but it does mean that you can find more safe products. I buy a lot of their 365 store-brand products, especially oils (but I’m shopping to avoid a lot more allergens than just corn.)
  • Trader Joe’s (I don’t have one) is a good place to shop.
  • the natural foods section of your regular grocery store
  • the perimeter of your regular grocery store.  Remember that all packaged food from most manufacturers — cereal, crackers, granola bars, etc. — likely contains corn, and those products are all in the aisles.
  • look for organic on bottled, boxed, and canned food. Organic doesn’t guarantee corn free, but it does usually mean it’s sweetened with something other than corn syrup or HFCS. I buy things like organic ketchup.   Some stores are coming up with their own organic labels which are cheaper than other organic lines. Meijer has its own organic label, for example.
  • Look in the markdown area of your store. I often find products that have been discontinued and drastically reduced (priced twice as much as other stores, so that’s why they haven’t sold).

This thorough website has extensive lists of corn ingredients and advice in living with a corn allergy. Check it out, you may find it helpful.

What are your tips for shopping and cooking corn free?

If you liked this article, please read tears for soy and corn and help, no wheat, no corn, no eggs allowed.


Entry filed under: allergies, food allergies, grocery shopping. Tags: , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary C.  |  November 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I have become corn intolerant in this pregnancy. I seem to also be dairy and gluten intolerant and was already soy intolerant before pregnancy. Good times.
    Anyhoo, what about vinegar? Do you avoid that? I have been using Apple Cider V and Rice V for making stock, etc.
    Thanks for the post! I just found out last Sunday that my salt had dextrose in it, how discouraging.

    • 2. guinever  |  November 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

      Yes, I use rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar, but always read labels. Sometimes this vinegars have forbidden ingredients. It is discouraging about salt. Very alarming too for those of who need to avoid corn.

      • 3. Laura  |  February 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        just a note on this — you said you buy organic ketchup, but every organic ketchup I’ve found still uses white vinegar which is corn. Just found a balsamic vinegar ketchup by Heinz yesterday — my son is very excited!! 🙂

  • 4. Kathy  |  November 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Some people I know by email are so sensitive to corn that they can tell if their beef was corn-fed. Maybe that’s why J reacts sometimes but not others.

  • 5. Heidi C.  |  November 19, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I found out recently that I have severe intolerances to CORN, EGGS, GLUTEN, and PORK. I also have mild intolerances to rice, soy, and dairy. It has turned my life upside down. I discovered this after suffering for 6 months with daily stomach cramps, nausea after eating everything, fatigue, and bouts with diarrhea or constipation. I was diagnosed with IBS by the doctor but felt it was something more so I sent my blood to a lab that tests for intolerances. I felt certain it was something I was eating that was making me sick. I had cut gluten out on my own to experiment but still had the issues. come to find out that CORN is my biggest problem. I still get very depressed trying to find things I can eat. It has been 10 weeks since I have adjusted my eating. Can’t say I’ve been totally corn free because I didn’t know all the names for corn until recently. Just had a really bad time w/ my seasonal allergies and took Claritin-D. Well, my intestinal issues have returned. Just saw on your site that that contains corn.
    I am sooooo thankful for sites like this!!! It also helps to know that I am not the only one going through this.

    • 6. guinever  |  November 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

      Heidi, I’m sorry that you’re feeling bad. I hope you get your intestinal issues solved and can figure out a diet that works for you. I know that reading food and drug labels is time consuming and tedious work.

      Check your claritin-D label and call the company about it containing corn. The claritin products I was referring to are children’s ready tabs and the liquid. Although the adult pills that you swallow have fillers, the Claritin-D *might* be corn free. I didn’t check on that.

  • 7. tanya  |  September 30, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I have a severe allergy to corn and it has gotten worse in the 2 yrs that I developed the allergy. Trying to find a conditioner or shampoo is impossible that’s free of it. I am using dr bronners baby castille soap and it’s great but makes your hair in big knots. They said to use a vinegar rinse but all vinegar seems to be made with yeast or corn and I am allergic to both. I’m going to try using the rice vinegar as a conditioning rinse as suggested from a rep at Dr Bronners. If you have corn allergies there are a few good sites with great info. is one of my favs. she never answers the emails though, so don’t leave one. I’m on fb if anyone with a corn allergy needs some info. Ive been researching for over a year!

  • 8. cookie 1  |  February 1, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I have had corn allergy for 10 years. Want to share with all of you that corn is in almost every over the counter pills, When it says cellulose, it is derived from a plant. Unless it says what plant, it is almost always corn. I get ALL my pills made for me at my pharmacy. Just find you a pharmacist who COMPOUNDS (can make pills right there) My WONDERFUL pharmacist now makes my Tylenol, ibuprofen, benadryl (which I HAVE to have because of all my allergies to chlorinated water, wheat and all chemicals also) cough syrup and any pills dr. calls in. What you have to do is get a prescription from your Dr. for everything. The pharmacist needs it to get the ingredients from the drug companies and then he makes them w/o corn. (he uses talc instead) The biggest problem is that they need at least 3 days to make them. But it is a God send for me and I’m hoping this helps someone else. And I have found that Wal-mart is notorious for NOT listing corn in ALOT of their products especially crackers and cookies. Another thing, if you call a company to find out if there is corn, etc. in their product, never tell them you got sick from it first because they will deny, deny, deny. Always say that you just bought their product and you were checking before you eat it. But biggest problem is that you sometimes get someone who has no idea and they just read the ingredient list you have and tell you no corn. I don’t even call them any more-its just safer. I hope I’ve helped someone else out there.


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