shopping tips for a corn allergy

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.


November 3, 2009 at 11:59 am 8 comments

can I feed six on $100 a week?

I’m challenging myself to see if I can keep my grocery bills to an average of $100 a week during November.  I’m not going to limit myself to $100 a calendar week but do want to limit it to $400 for the month. Does that make sense?  In other words, I might spend $125 this week and $75 next week.  I’ll include toilet paper and anything else I might buy at the grocery store.

I have no idea if I can do this or not, but I’m going to try. Thankfully, my whole family gobbled up the beans and rice with tortilla chips and cheese we had last night (cheap cheap cheap.)

Do you want to start your own grocery challenge and do it along with me?

I’m not starting with an empty freezer or pantry so I do have a few things on hand.  Everyone’s family is different in food preferences and needs. We have a family of six, one girl whose appetite is modest compared to her older brothers who both eat more than me and their dad.  Most notably, I have a 3 year old son who is allergic to many foods.  I mainly cook and bake from scratch (but you will see me popping a few Freschetta pizzas in the oven on occasion or opening a can of prego when I need something quick.)  We do not eat canned veggies or fruits.  Frozen, yes, when fresh isn’t cost effective. I avoid high fructose corn syrup which is in most packaged foods (not that I have completely eliminated it yet–see above prego:)

I also shop at Whole Foods, Good Foods and occasionally at Aldis.  How I wish I had a Trader Joe’s close!  What I buy the most at Aldis is dairy. $1.49 gallon milk and pound of butter, for example.

finding my deals

I discovered about a year ago that my Kroger store marks down meat and produce a little bit before noon on Tuesdays and Thursday so that’s when I plan to shop.  I try to buy chicken for no more than 99 cents a pound. Maybe that doesn’t sound very low, but it is when you realize that I MUST read labels very carefully and only buy chicken with retained water and not chicken that is enhanced with a natural chicken broth.  The little J is allergic to pork and it seems he’s allergic to beef too. I haven’t tried any organic, free range beef for him, but I have experimented here and there and read labels very carefully to make sure what I buy is just beef with no “enhancements.”  Sometimes he reacts and sometimes he doesn’t.

I used to shop at Meijer’s every week. But they seemed to raise their prices, stopped carrying two of my favorite items and changed their check policy; all of which caused me to start shopping around:)  But what I absolutely love about Meijers is their clearance rack in the back of the store by the milk and I usually stop there on my way home from kroger. Sometimes, there is nothing. Other times, I’ll see an item that I stock up on.  This happened a couple weeks ago when I bought hemp dream for 53 cents a quart. I must have bought more than a dozen; actually, I bought all they had in original.  I left the vanilla sitting on the rack since J is allergic to vanilla.  I know. Who’s allergic  to vanilla?   Their mark down said 90% off; no wonder it didn’t sell at full price. I had never bought the hemp milk before because it is pricier than rice or oat (J can’t have dairy.)  I’m thrilled that my little J does not like to drink it because then I have it for making his pancakes and muffins.

I’ll post my shopping trips and our menus of what we actually ate. Stay tuned til tomorrow when I tell you what  I bought at Aldis and Good Foods today.

my menus

Sunday breakfast: oatmeal sweetened with molasses, rice syrup and raisins

Sunday lunch: cooked a whole chicken and used about half the meat in a cream sauce made with rice milk and thickened with tapioca flour.  Added probably about 2 lbs of carrots ( I had bought 15 lbs at a deep discount at Kroger last week and speaking of carrots, Todd picked a couple pounds from our garden today) and some leftover peas.  Served all this over mashed potatoes. Leftover communion bread. (saved the rest of the chicken and plus made 2 qts of stock for later.)

Sunday dinner: previously mentioned beans and rice, etc with homemade donuts for dessert.   Before the little J came along with his long list of allergies, I would’ve put the salsa in the crockpot and corn too with everything else, but now I have to keep tomatoes separate and didn’t do corn. I also have some rice “cheese” for the top of his beans.

Monday breakfast: kids cold cereal and leftover donuts,  J leftover oatmeal, me a granola bar.  Todd made his own sausage and eggs and coffee.

Monday lunch: shepherd’s pie which consisted of  bag of frozen beans, small can of tomato paste, can of evaporated milk, shredded cheese, spices, leftover cubed steak and then on top of that leftover mashed potatoes with an egg in it. Caleb especially liked this.  homemade spelt bread toasted with parmesan.

snacks throughout the day: apples, bananas, grapes. note about the apples: I bought three 3 pound bags of apples today at Aldi for $1.19 each. Wow.  But, they have a waxy coating (most do)  I tried to wash it off really well, but J’s little face broke all out so I went to Good Food and got him his own bag of apples which no one else is allowed to touch. 3lbs for $3.99 which actually isn’t too bad a price at all for organic apples.

Monday dinner:  Todd packed his own dinner and I don’t know what he took.  The kids and I had pb&J on spelt bread, and cheese roll-ups with sour cream, J ate a couple chicken hot dogs and several of the dessert bars I made especially for him yesterday (which is the healthiest thing in the house probably, lol.)

November 3, 2009 at 12:40 am 14 comments

failing customer service 101

I’ve got a product that I love and I was almost out of it and I was debating whether or not to order some more when I got a 30% off coupon in my inbox. COOL.  Not only did I order one, but I ordered two. Well, actually, it was four because this particular consumable item is sold buy one, get one free.

I had ordered from this company before and it had shipped out right away. But not this time. At first I didn’t worry about it because maybe tons of people were ordering with the coupon and maybe they were just backlogged.  I placed my order on August 17 online and paid with my paypal account (thankfully as you’ll see later.)  On September 3rd, I sent an inquiry wondering if my order had shipped and if there was a tracking number.  Two days later, I received a notice of shipment and a tracking number.

When I got my box, it contained only 2 bottles.  Uh-oh. Maybe they were shipped separately.  When I hadn’t received the completion of my order a few days later, I sent a friendly inquiry on September 12. I heard nothing.

I sent the same e-mail to a different e-mail address on their website on September 15th. Still, I heard nothing back. WHAT was going on?  I looked up the company at the Better Business Bureau and was relieved to see that there were no customer complaints on file. Still trying to give them the benefit of the doubt (aren’t I nice?), I thought perhaps they hadn’t received my e-mails so I sent another e-mail from my g-mail account.

Before explaining more, let me insert here, that there are no fewer than 13 e-mails in my g-mail exchange with D from this company. (who I think is the sole owner/worker at this place.)

I have sent you  two e-mails regarding my order that was placed on August 17th and have gotten no response from you. I e-mailed you on September 12th and again on September 15th from my main e-mail account.  In the possible event you are unable to receive e-mails from me at that address, I am trying again from a different account.

I received only half of the order that I paid for. I see two options. You can either refund the difference or ship 2 bottles of castille soap to me at your earliest convenience. Please let me know what you plan to do. Sincerely,  Guinever

Believe it or not, she responded to me the same day:

I need to se what you did.  It seems you got 50% off the products and then used a 30% discount code-and somehow paid $9.60 for shipping when it would be twice that to actually ship.  No other order came through as that did-so very unclear how you did that.  I will do the math tommorow-I am just leaving for the day.

This e-mail rather irritated me. First of all, I’ve been very nice to her the whole time, it’s been more than a month since my original order and now she is blaming me for her shopping cart problem. With this e-mail, I had the feeling that she shorted me the product on purpose to make up for the shipping charges. It was only an instinct and I kept it to myself.  Also, as an aside, if she had contacted me when the order was placed about the shipping charge, I may have paid it (but I don’t think it should be double the amount if shipped together.)

So, did she get back to me next day, as she said she would?  A big NO.
So on the 24th, I merely sent her an e-mail, “Just waiting to hear from you again.  Thanks, Guinever”

It was nearing 45 days since I placed my order and paid for it. Paypal allows customers to open a dispute within 45 days so that’s what I did on October 1st.  Below is the second half of the letter I wrote.  I’m not bothering to include the first half since the info is all included above.

I regret having to open this paypal dispute but you leave me no choice  as you have not offered any resolution in the matter and we are  nearing 45 days since I placed my order.  You even kind of blamed me for what happened. I merely placed my order. You shopping cart is what “DID” it whatever “IT” is.

I see 2 options for you. You can either immediately ship out my other 2 bottles or you can refund me $22.40 (which is half  of the subtotal before shipping.)

She responded to my e-mail on October 5th (not through paypal channels.)

If you really love the soap I will send the rest.  if you were just trying to get a really good deal-I will refund the second box. Here is a 30% off lin for repeat buyers if you do like the soap.

Then my response to her:

I do love the soap and would like it if you’d send me the rest of the order =)  I even wrote about your product on my blog in April. (and I included the link for her but have deleted it here in an attempt to keep her anonymous. Don’t ask me why.)
~blessings, Guinever

Then her response:

That is VERY cool!   I will be sending the two bottles in the next 24 hours.  I just got situated back in Florida.
You are correct it is gentle on skin.  I think a Castor Oil version may be even better and I will send 8 ounces of that also.  The castor oil is more pricey because it is all oil essentially.  But I suspect it is the best when we are talking no drying at all and pets who also have skin conditions.

And then in a separate e-mail the same day, she wrote:

Oh yeah, I was seriously debating begging you to work for us when I saw your order.  It perplexed me that you were so careful and took so much time to get the bets deal.  I was thinking “Purchasing agent!”

OK, this gave me quite a pause and only confirms what I suspected earlier. She was aware of my order. (thinking I was a purchasing agent trying to get a good deal so I could sell at a profit.)  If this is true, then she purposely sent only half my order which miffs me a little bit. By now, it was October 8th.

Then on October 16th, I still had neither received my box of lovely merchandise nor had I received an e-mail stating it had shipped so again I wrote to her. At this point, I still wondered if she was actually going to ship. I only had a couple more days with the paypal dispute. After opening a dispute, you have 21 days to get it resolved or escalate it to a claim where paypal gets involved and makes a decision.  I really, really was hoping to avoid doing that.

Thanks for sending out my order. Hopefully, I will receive it soon. Do you have a tracking # for it?   I just got back home a couple days ago after being out of town for a funeral. …Thanks for the castor oil soap too.  Looking forward to trying that out. I’ve never heard of that.
~blessings, Guinever

And here’s  her response that would be quite unbelievable had it not been for all her other responses and non-responses in the previous 3 months:

I am sending it out tomorrow I hope. Our sites crashed last week as we were moving them to a bigger server.  It caused a total income stop for 7 days and that was just hard on me to afford to breathe. I love your site and I can give you 50% off from here on out.  I should be stable by Monday.  I know I have been through a very transitional summer.
Bottom line I am waiting for more loot to come in to pay for shipping which is $10.  Usually I am not too worried about that-but in this economy it has really mattered.  Orders are just starting to come back in so I can have at least cash flow.
By the way I can make any lotion you want per yoru specs for yoru Eczema effort.  I have Emu here and all of that stuff.  I find Vitamin B-1 in a creme is awesome and menthol as well. that is the Gold Bond formula that has helped some people.

She’s trying to tell me that she doesn’t have $10 to ship out my product.  Now, I just know that she is trying to earn my sympathy so I’ll send her another $10 for shipping.  Forget it.  The time to ask me for more $ or just to off-handedly imply that I should send her money for shipping is loooooong past.  It is now 8 days since she said that she would ship my product within 24 hours, and it is nearly 3 months since I played the original order.

Thanks for your sweet offer of 50% off future orders. First, I’d like to get THIS order shipped and have a tracking number Monday or Tuesday so I can close the paypal dispute before the deadline of the 21st..Thanks so much, Guinever

October 19, I received notice of shipment with a tracking number. A couple days later, I received my two bottles. Noticeably absent from the box was the 8 ounces of castor oil soap that she promised to send because she loves my blog and my review of her product.

I’ve had it with the company. I love, love love the product.  Business ethics and dealings are atrocious, though, and are not worth the tremendous time and effort so I am forced to find another lovely castille soap for my family’s use.

Any suggestions out there?
edited to add a few minutes after publishing:  Well, I haven’t been removed from her e-mail mailing list because I just received this:

I am sending this special offer to customers I think would like this and not to our general mail list.   Our busy season starts the day after Halloween and I am really trying to order in new materials and secure some new equipment.  Geenrally the next three days is a total dead zone for cash flow. I will need up to two weeks to ship.  Suggestions include liquid soap, balm base, lotion base and flavors.  Please do not combine this with other offers-such as already reduced liquid soap.

HA HA HA. I guess she learned her lesson with me since she has included a little disclaimer about not using  the coupon code on already discounted soap=)

October 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm 4 comments

my Grandma

I’m listening to Caleb wailing. The news sunk in.  A half hour an ago I told him that his Great-Grandma died peacefully in her sleep.

With the news that she was in Heaven, Alex hugged me, lingering for several seconds, then fought back tears and walked to his room.  Then I heard him playing, “Hot Cross Buns” on  his recorder.

What I didn’t  know–not until I googled it–is that making hot cross buns is a Good Friday tradition.  How coincidental, providential,  and incidental. I know my words contradict themselves but I mean all of them.

As I finish typing this,  I hear the sound of an audio story coming from Caleb’s  room. There is no more wailing.  The darkness of Good Friday turns into the joy of Easter and the promise of eternal life for believers.

Earlier this week, Mary wanted to make a card for her Great-Grandma. She wanted to say,

“I hope you get well soon.”

I told her that Grandma wasn’t going to get well, that she was dying, that she would soon go to Heaven. She gave me a hug, let out a loud sigh, and said, “Mom, I want to make her a card.”

I asked her if she’d like to say, “I hope you feel better soon.”  She agreed and carefully copied all the words I had written out for her. This was the first time she had written anything other than her name.

This morning, I told Mary that Grandma was all better now, that she had died in her sleep and she was in  heaven.

“Like Abby?”  she asked.

Yes, like Abby.

September 12, 2009 at 10:09 am 2 comments

quote on memories

Your memory is a monster; you forget–it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you–and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory, but it has you!

by John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

September 6, 2009 at 9:42 am 2 comments

tears for soy and corn

Several months ago when my son just wasn’t getting any better, when his hives kept appearing every night and he continued to wake up itchy and irritable, I went on a quest to figure out what was causing his allergic reactions.   First, I tore apart his room, thinking or hoping I might find a huge colony of dust mites or something that was affecting him at night. That would have been a simple solution.  No such luck.

I have previously written about my son’s allergies and our first trip to the allergist and about day 3 of reading food labels.

I had eliminated all known foods from his diet and someone suggested that  I needed to find out the unknown. What was lurking in my son’s food and supplements?  I examined everything that my son put in his mouth. It turns out his multi-vitamin contained corn; so did the papaya supplement that I occasionally gave him.

I was giving him 3 different antihistamines as recommended by his allergy doctor. Two OTC and one rX.  Let’s just say that my local pharmacist and manufacturer of the store brand were very helpful indeed. (as opposed to the Zyrtec people who were vague and refused to give me any real ingredient info and kept their stance as the finished product has never been tested for soy.  grrr) It turns out that sodium acetate is derived from soy.  Go figure.  Voila’.  I had been unwittingly giving him a product that was not labeled as containing soy, a product as “prescribed” by his allergy doctor who very well knows that my son is allergic to soy. I cried and cried. I was angry. I guess that’s why it’s taken me this long to write about it.    I wasn’t angry at anyone in particular (like the allergist or the manufacturer), just angry at the whole situation. And overwhelmed.

Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 , there are 8 common allergens that must be clearly labeled on food and drug products.  This makes my grocery shopping a little simpler than if this act hadn’t been passed. However, I sure wish corn was on the big 8 list!

Out of all my son’s allergies which include wheat, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, tomatoes, berries, just to name a few….corn is the hardest to avoid because it is not one of the top allergens required by law to be clearly labeled on the product. This Corn Allergy website has been very helpful to me.  Did you know that simple table salt contains corn because corn is involved in the iodization process?

In addition to corn, soy is also very hard to avoid because soy fulfills so many different roles in American manufactured food (binder, propellant, filler, etc.)    I have compiled a list of common foods below containing soy.  Which of the following product does not contain soy?

  1. Cheerios
  2. Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  3. Nabisco Honey Maid Graham crackers
  4. Meijer Applause snack crackers (like Ritz)
  5. Olive oil cooking spray (aerosol can)
  6. Marzetti organic Parmesan ranch dressing
  7. Starkist solid white albacore tuna in water
  8. Chex Party mix seasoning packet
  9. Vitamin E
  10. Celestial seasoning raspberry tea
  11. Grey Poupon spicy brown mustard
  12. Oscar Mayer hot dogs
  13. Ceterizine (over the counter antihistamine)
  14. Oat Dream oat drink
  15. Hershey’s semi sweet chocolate chips
  16. Worcestershire sauce

The answer appears at the end of this article.

Below is a picture of what trace amounts of soy or corn can do to my son. When I say trace amounts, I mean the amount of soy or corn is so minuscule that most people don’t react to it so manufacturers don’t feel the need to label their products as containing the ingredient.   He used to look like this every single day before I finally figured out that it was his antihistamine that was doing this to him.  This photo was taken as the hives were fading.  (in other words, they were often much much worse than this picture conveys.   Here the hives are red marks on his skin, rather than being upraised and angry red.)


The last time my son broke out in his hives was about a month ago. His older brother had left a piece of taffy-like candy out and Jackson ate a bite (just one small bite) before his brother grabbed it away from him.  A couple hours later, his whole body turned red like he had a sunburn then his lower body was covered in  hives. All this from one little bite of candy containing corn syrup.

Now the answer to the little quiz above. It was a trick question. All of the mentioned products (as of this writing) contain soy. I included the name of  the brands because similar products in other brands do not contain soy. Most notably, bumblee tuna in water does not contain soy because it truly is in water, unlike the aforementioned brand of tuna that is in actuality packed in broth. This fact is clearly labeled in small print on the back of the product, yet it is still called, tuna in water. Very annoying, indeed.

Now when I am at the store and discover a new product that is potentially safe for Jackson that I haven’t purchased before, I call the manufacturer and ask them before buying it. I was looking at a loaf of rice and millet bread at Whole Foods. I called them and they said no corn or soy. Then I asked what the source of the methyl-cellulose was (anything ending in “ose” is usually derived from corn.)  The answer was cottonwood. Hmm. really? Cottonwood?  So I bought the bread and Jackson devoured it!

Another time I bought some turkey bacon someone recommended to me. I read the label and it seemed safe. After eating it and thoroughly enjoying it, my allergy boy broke out in hives so I e-mailed the company. Their response was, “Thank you for your inquiry. The lactic acid starter culture in this product is derived from corn. There is no soy present.” Who would  know that lactic acid is corn…it says it is non-dairy, but it doesn’t say that it’s corn. Why can’t they let everyone know that it came from corn?

What has been your experience with food allergy and reading labels?

If you liked this, you might like my other posts about dealing with my son’s allergies and eczema:  Top 5 products that have helped our severe eczema and adventures in homemade cleaners.

August 26, 2009 at 12:18 am 18 comments

children pray

children pray

June 22, 2009 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment

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Welcome to my personal blog about my life as a wife and homeschooling mother of a few energetic children! You'll find my favorite recipes, all kinds of reviews, the occasional rant, and whatever else I feel like writing about.

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