Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yummy Earth - Organic Lollipops - A Company that Truely Cares

Many of us are used to dealing with companies, trying to find answers, often getting no answers or no cooperation. Yummy Earth has set a new bar for cooperation and honesty.

On the Delphi - Avoiding Corn Thread, Corn & Candy, you can see for yourself the lengths to which the company co-founder has gone to answer our questions about their product Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops.

One of the members gave the co-founder Rob Wunder the site address for the Avoiding Corn Delphi Forum, and not only did he answer her questions on the phone, he logged onto Delphi and has been answering questions there and working with us.

The lollipop ingredients are:

Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Non GMO Citric Acid, Organic & Natural Flavors (Watermelon, Pomegranate, Orange Oils, Lemon Oils, Raspberry), Organic & Natural Colors, Red Cabbage, Purple Carrots.

Their citric acid is from beet sugar. The colors are from cabbage and carrots.

The product should be completely corn-free; however, Ron has been honest and upfront that the candy is made on the same lines as candy with corn syrup. The line is washed before it is used to make the Organic Lollipops, but there is still risk of cross-contamination.

Mr. Wunder has also researched corn product testing, and stated this:

"According to Ron Schnitzer of Sani-Pure Food Laboratories in Saddle Brook, NJ corn is not protein based and is not an AMA or FDA recognized allergen. There may be corn present at rates less than 50 parts per million in YummyEarth flavors, but there is no test for corn that will test below 50 parts per million. Therefore there is no existing method to test the existence of corn in our product because the possible existence of corn in our product could simply be undetectable. Without making light of anyone's corn reactions - it certainly is fun to learn about this stuff!!!"

Mr. Wunder also stated that they will be updating their site to post detailed answers to the questions we've already asked. Yummy Earth - Ingredients

Due to the helpfulness of Ron and his willingness to go out of his way for us, I have decided to be brave and I ordered some of the lollipops last night. I'll post an update once I've tried them myself.

***** I have tried several of these with no reaction. There is still a cross-contamination issue, but the lollipops seem to be completely corn-free. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Uses of Corn - Corn Products to avoid.

Because there just isn't enough things made from corn to watch out for..

Here are a few more products to avoid:

Eco-friendly gift cards - These festive little cards are scratch'n sniff peppermint scented gift cards, biodegradable, made from corn. Places to watch out for these lovelies: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap, Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, JC Penney, Costco, Toys R Us, and more. Another article at Potentials Mag. states that 99.9% of people won't know the difference between the corn plastic gift cards and the PVC. These haven't been out long enough to know if it'll cause skin irritation on corn allergic/intolerant people, but its definately something for which to watch out.

Eco-friendly Coffee Mug - This coffee mug is made from 100% corn plastic. Its sold as a promotional item for companies. So watch out for that Eco-friendly mug being handed out at the company holiday party.

Actually, speaking of bioplastics.. here is an article about Bio-plastics (corn-based polylactice acid, PLA) in use. Watch out for the following being made from corn:
Compostable Tableware - made entirely from corn. Line includes: disposable forks, knives, spoons, plates, cups, bowls, and storage containers such as those used in deli's and supermarkets. See Also: Biodegradable Store
Containers at Deli's and Supermarkets - Part of the Compostable Tableware line. Wild Oats Markets has switched its packaging to corn-based plastics.
PLA Clothing Items & Bedding: already available in department stores in Nebraska, and "around the nation".
Sony-Walkman: Available in PLA in Japan. (and probably USA as well)
CD's: Available in PLA in Japan. (and probably USA as well)
Sorona Fabric: A joint effort of Dupont and Tate & Lyle. The fabric is made from corn and petroleum products. Production to begin in 2006?
Polyester & Food Wrap: Not that any of us is thinking of making a 1970's polyester suit, but BASF AG & Metabolix are working on a plant-based (corn) polyester plastic to be used as food wrap or fibers for clothing.
Coated Paper, Film, Molded Goods: ADM is working on producing these with polymers made from corn.

Other products from corn that may not readily come to mind: Iowa Corn - Corn Products Be sure to click all the links on the side in light grey. (6 pages total) Very informative.
Chewing Gum: I've actually yet to find a chewing gum (except maybe during Kosher for Passover) that is completely corn-free.
Penicillin Production: It may not be enough anymore to make sure the fillers are corn-free. Its the medication itself that may do us in.
Intravenous Solutions: IV's. Hospitals, surgeries, emergencies. Its a scary enough thought on its own without worrying about getting poisoned from an IV.
Mattresses: Nothing quite like a good nights rest on a bed of corn.

Illinois Corn - Corn Products
Tires: Tires made from corn. Gas and Tires made from corn. Soon we'll be driving a corn-cob.
Golf Tees: Ecotee biodegradable golf tees.
Corn Stoves & Furnaces: As if the harvest months aren't bad enough for airborne corn, now your winter months can share in corn smoke drifting through the air.
De-Icers: For those of you that live in colder climates, be careful. (check out the next link for more information on which brands to definately avoid)

To search for other products made from corn, aka search for products to avoid, the National Corn Growers Association has set up a very handy webpage about corn based products which is searchable by product applications, and company name. Corn-based Products Search Engine

Companies to watch out for:
Brevoxyl Creamy Wash by Stiefel (acne wash)
Desitin Baby Powder (Pfizer)
Earth Friendly Products (cleaning products)
Natural Soy Products (hand soap)
SoyGreen - Soy Technologies (degreaser and finish stripping solvents)
World's Best Cat Litter.

Pages to make sure you read:
Corn Products broken down by derivative source.
New uses of corn.
Primary Products from Corn.
Tapping the Treasure: Detailed breakdown of corn use in products

Friday, September 22, 2006

General Mills - Gold Medal Flour - Reactions

**** 12/17/14 Update: This flour is not considered safe at all for corn allergies. All enriched products will contain corn derivatives. Avoid this.

**** 10/27/06 Update: The Gold Medal All-Purpose flour was tested and reactions were reported. Use with caution with this flour.

Original Post:
A letter posted on Delphi from General Mills confirms their Gold Medal flours to be corn-free, including enrichments.

They also do the lawyer speak about freedom to change formulas at any time and that you need to check the ingredient list every time.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tackling the CODEX - Corn Allery Concerns

The Codex. For those of us who've been around the block and researched every nook and cranny of our food, we've found in our searches references to the Codex, which is the bible of international food safety and labeling standards.

However, finding it and understanding what it is and what it means.. Lets just say its not easy. So first, some history.

In the 1960's, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization) created a special commission to develop food standards, guidelines, etc. as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. This commission is called: The Codex Alimentarius Commission.

For more history on the Codex Alimentarius Commission: Origins of the Codex Alimentarius

The General Principles of the Codex Alimentarius state: “The publication of the Codex Alimentarius is intended to guide and promote the elaboration and establishment of definitions and requirements for foods to assist in their harmonization and in doing so to facilitate international trade.”
A principal concern of national governments is that food imported from other countries should be safe and not jeopardize the health of consumers or pose a threat to the health and safety of their animal and plant populations.

To read up more on the Codex Alimentarius: Understanding the Codex Alimentarius

To avoid too much confusion, the Codex and the Codex Alimentarius Commission aren't the same thing though they share names. When sites refer to the Codex, they are most generally referring to the document of food standards and pratices set up by the commission, not the commission itself, such is the case in this article.

You can find the Codex on the Codex Alimentarius site. There are several documents and a ton of legalese, but once you know what you're looking for, you might find the answers there rather scary.

Main problems with the current Codex standards (mainly labeling):

" The following foods and ingredients are known to cause hypersensitivity and shall always be declared:[4] "

Of the following foods such as: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, seafood, eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts, and sulfites.. Corn is not mentioned or included. We need to get this changed.

" Where an ingredient is itself the product of two or more ingredients, such a compound ingredient may be declared, as such, in the list of ingredients, provided that it is immediately accompanied by a list, in brackets, of its ingredients in descending order of proportion (m/m). Where a compound ingredient (for which a name has been established in a Codex standard or in national legislation) constitutes less than 5% of the food, the ingredients, other than food additives which serve a technological function in the finished product, need not be declared."

So if you have an ingredient such as turkey broth and the corn starch in it is less than 5% of the total food ingredients, it doesn't have to be listed.

" A food additive carried over into a food in a significant quantity or in an amount sufficient to perform a technological function in that food as a result of the use of raw materials or other ingredients in which the additive was used shall be included in the list of ingredients. The exemption does not apply to food additive and processing aids listed in section A food additive carried over into foods at a level less than that required to achieve a technological function, and processing aids, are exempted from declaration in the list of ingredients. The exemption does not apply to food additives and processing aids listed in section"

This is one of the reasons why we need corn listed in section This is one of the ways that corn derivatives get sneaked into products and not labeled. This means corn starch used to clean equipment isn't labeled. Citric acid washes aren't labeled. Corn starch used to line the packaging isn't labeled.

The "significant quantity" mentioned in is addressed in the Codex - General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) which has some scary levels for some of these additives.

Words (abbreviations) that you'll see often:
GSFA - General Standard for Food Additives
GRAS - Generally Reguarded as Safe
GMP - Good Manufacturing Practices

Codex - Food Labelling
Codex - General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) (on page - click to view current version of this. You'll need to have Acrobat Reader installed as it is a PDF)
Codex - Current Official Standards (also gives dates on when it was last reviewed)

My brain is all fuzzy from reading all these pages, so if you find something I missed or a correction needed. Please leave a comment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Surviving Parenthood and Corn Allergies

Living with a corn allergy often feels like you’re living with a walking bomb, just waiting to be set off. But when it comes to life with kids, there are certain risks you might not otherwise even think about. Whether your child is the one with the corn allergy, or you are, the risk of exposure is there. Even if you know not to eat the offending product, touching your face or sweeping the hair out of your eyes (and then getting your hair in your mouth…something you don’t even think about) can be enough to “get” you.

A list of potential risks:

Baby Wipes (often used for quick “hand washing” after a messy activity.)
Balloons (May be dusted on the inside with corn starch. Use caution when blowing them up)
Crayons (Binder may be corn derived, the molds they are made in may be dusted with corn starch, imbedding corn starch into the crayons, the paper on the crayons may use a corn based adhesive.)
Facial Tissues (some are dusted with cornstarch. Offer to donate some boxes that are safe. Scott’s Tissue is one corn free brand)
Finger paints (Preschools love to use food as finger paint. There are pudding, kool aide and egg based finger paints.)
Hand sanitizers
Oobleck or Gloop: This is a compound made by mixing corn starch and water. It is super cool to play in and has many merits as a chemistry lesson. It is not a good tactile experience for someone with corn allergies, or for a volunteer parent with corn allergies to help mix. Cornstarch is easily airborne, and can be inhaled through the mouth triggering allergic reactions.)
Paper mache (watch out for the glue solution used in the project, as well as the balloons that need to be blown up)
Plaster of paris projects (the mixture may contain corn derivatives. Especially be careful during the mixing process, as the dry mix becomes airborne)
Plastic toys: Soft plastic toys are often coated with somethng to keep them from sticking to the package, or to keep them soft and pliable. This substance is always non-toxic, but could cause an allergic reaction...and could be derived from corn. So far, companies have responded to our inquiries that they use a proprietary formula and can not reveal the ingredients, nor confirm or deny the presence of corn. So consumer beware. If you or your child experience an allergic reaction to a new toy, you can contact the manufacturer to report it and they will arrange for a full refund of the purchase price.
Play dough (may contain corn. Many clays do, whether they are home made or store bought. Ascertain the ingredients if the class makes their own or contact the company.)
Shaving Cream (This is used as a finger paint and sometimes to clean tables)

Its also important, as a parent, to know when food or food products might be used as a part of the curriculum or classroom activities.

Parties are obviously risky, and it is wise to make sure your child has safe treats on hand in the classroom, as well as a plan in place for the teacher to notify you in case of any upcoming birthdays; so that your child can be provided with a comparable cookie or cupcake.

The most popular party themes are: Halloween (a corn allergy nightmare in and of itself) Thanksgiving feasts (cornbread, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and eggnog are popular offerings) Christmas (Gingerbread houses, decorating cookies, and candy handouts are common throughout the Christmas season), Valentines day (a lot of schools embrace non religious holidays as “universally” celebrated and go all out with parties and candy and projects), St Patricks day (Yeah, I know, the first big St Pattys day celebration was a shock to me, too, but there are leprechaun hunts, golden candy coins, shamrock cookies, “green” themed parties (with lime jello, green punch, green popsicles, etc); Easter (Some schools still have Easter parties, including candy filled egg hunts, decorating eggs or egg shaped cookies etc. There are also “Spring themed” parties where kids decorate cupcakes or cookies with cornstarch thickened frosting and all manner of corn sweetened candies) End of school brings more parties. Many schools also use pizza or ice cream parties as incentives for class accomplishments. Usually parents are notified, but sometimes as little as a nights notice is given. Field trips can also involve food (a trip to the pizza parlor, for example)

Certain curriculum themes lend themselves well to food manipulatives as well. The gingerbread Boy, Hansel and Gretel, Johnny Appleseed and The Mayflower are just a few examples of food friendly curriculum.

As a parent of a food allergic child, you should be prepared to volunteer a lot of time in the classroom to keep your child safe. Asking to be “room mother” gives you a lot of control over party planning. As a food allergic parent, its just as vital to know when *not* to volunteer. Its really hard to walk away when asked to mix up a big batch of Oobleck or to blow up a half dozen balloons, but your health depends on it. (And no, just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you should be a martyr to your kids. They need you to drive them home after school!)

Our society tends to revolve around food. As a parent you can help to make a shift to healthier parties, donating books instead of cookies for birthdays and other new traditions that may not be popular at first. But, other parents will follow and support you. Its not easy to be different, but it’s a lot easier to handle when you are well, and its easiest to stay well (and keep your kids healthy) if you know what to expect.

Organic Gardening using corn? Allergy concern.

Having a corn allergy for most of us is like setting us back a good 50-100 years. Some of us make our own jams, jellies, and juices. We cook and bake nearly everything from "scratch", using the more pure and unprocessed foods we can find because those are the corn-free ones. We can our own foods for the winter months. We grow our own supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But even with all that effort to keep away from corn, it can still sneak right back in.

I came across a webpage a few days ago about a GM corn that had such high amounts of natural insecticide that it killed bugs that ate it.

Cornell News - Corn kills Monarch Butterflies
DailyNews - ISU Study questions use of Bt Corn

And I wondered what use this GM corn could possibly be used for (I was hoping not food), and now I think I know.

According to The Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett, corn gluten meal is a natural weed and feed fertilizer and recommends its use in organic gardening.

And he's not the only one. Homewizard states that most fertilizer preemergent natural products available are made from corn gluten meal. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) also recommends the use of corn gluten meal for natural gardening.

So while "natural" products may sound good, they may not be good for your corn-free gardening. Watch your labels. Last thing we need is to get sick because we're trying to live healthier.

For more information on corn in fertilizers and herbicides, please click the following link:
Google Search - Corn Gluten Meal

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ethanol - One more place to watch for Corn allergy

Though there hasn't been any research done on corn allergy and ethanol, and I suspect there won't be. Those of us who are very sensitive to corn should at least be aware of its use and where problems may arrise.

Consumer Reports October 2006 edition has a huge article about Ethanol (& E85) and its viability as a gasoline replacement. The article brings up a lot of good points which makes me think that it won't last long and soon they'll find another cheaper way of alternative fuels. (Soy-based products seem to be more economically viable at this point) I highly recommend reading this article as it is very informative, and will make you mad at where our tax dollars and incentives are actually going.

In the meantime, those who have to endure living near Ethanol plants won't be having much fun. I know from personal experience that being within at least 10 miles of an Ethanol plant can set off my allergies. If you want to avoid living near an ethanol plant, here is a list of plant locations where you're not going to want to move (or at least watch to which area of town you move). Click Here for a map of Ethanol refinery locations.

States in order of the number of refineries per State:
Iowa with a whopping 31.
Nebraska has 21.
Minnesota has 17.
South Dakoka has 14.
Kansas has 9.
Illinois has 7.
Indiana and Wisconsin are tied with 6 each.
North Dakota has 5.
California, Colorado, Michigan are tied with 4 each.
Texas has 3.
Kentucky and Ohio are tied with 2 each.
Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Wyoming are tied with 1 each.

The Consumer Reports article also states which states have the most E85 stations open to the public. Which means the more E85, the more potential problems with Ethanol (Corn) being in the air you breathe, let alone the air when you're filling up.
Minnesota has over 200 stations.
Illinois has 101-200 stations.
Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota have 41-100 stations.
Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Wisconsin have 21-40 stations.
Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas have 11-20 stations.
Colorado, Ohio, Nevada have 6-10 stations.
Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennesee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming have 1-5 stations.
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont currently have none.

Also keep your eyes open for Ethanol in your regular gasoline, as according to the Consumer Reports article, "Ethanol is now blended into 40% of all U.S. gasoline."

Other interesting links about Ethanol:

EPA proposed rule for implementation of renewable fuels standard. (aka Forcing Ethanol to be mixed with all gasoline)

Scarcity of Corn Fuel

Redesigning Crops to Harvest Fuel

Ethanol takes more energy than it produces.

Use of Corn as Fuel may drive up Food Prices (which would be fine for us, since we don't buy foods with corn in it anyway. Though I do wonder if this might make our foods then cheaper?)

New Ethanol Plant - Missouri
New Ethanol Plant - Kansas

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Trouble with Tylenol

Not long ago I had a headache. It wasn’t a bad headache, but I had to be somewhere and it occurred to me that Tylenol would be really nice.

This doesn’t seem like big news. I can see you frowning at the blog now. “So take some Tylenol and get on with it already.”

I urge you to take out a bottle of Tylenol, or Motrin, or Excedrin. Now, look at the ingredients. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are fine. Now, look closer. You’re looking for the list of “Inactive Ingredients”. This may not be on the bottle at all, you might need to find the insert or the original box. Inactive ingredients are the bits and pieces that turn powdered drugs into pills (or syrup) so that you can take an accurately measured amount.

In the ingredient list, depending on what pain killing product you like to keep on hand, you should see starch, citric acid, maltodextrin, polyethylene glycol, sorbitol, mannitol or microcrystalline cellulose. You may also see the more obvious “corn starch” or “high fructose corn syrup”. Any of these ingredients mean a corn allergy sufferer must first make some phone calls before taking the medicine.

I have recently contacted the makers of the main drug companies and a number of smaller companies whose products I found on the shelves of local drug stores. I was told over and over (and over) that the product was not safe for someone with a corn allergy, and that I should contact my dr.

I contacted my doctor.

Her nurse suggested I go to the drug store and buy some Tylenol.

I went to the local pharmacist. Her eyes grew wide as I presented her with my list of potential corn derivatives and she helped me search through the shelves. We discovered that Advil infant drops were probably corn free. I would have to take multiple bottles to make up an adult dose (Which is not reccomended by the manufacturer, by the way.). She suggested I get a prescription written and find a compounding pharmacy.

I called my doctor again. This time I was told to try reading labels.

I called a few companies again. This time I asked if they carried ANY products that would work for pain and be safe for a corn allergic individual. After a long pause I was told that I would need to find a special pharmacist who could formulate my own pain killer using pure acetaminophen (or ibuprofen). Corn is cheap. Its not on the top 8, or even the top 10. Its used widely in all drugs.

So I called my dr again. I started from the beginning and included the fact that I not only have to cook all my food from scratch, but apparently need to make my own pain killers from scratch too. (I think I may have cried a bit. My head was throbbing. Pounding it against the wall wasn't helping any.)

This time the receptionist said someone would call me back. Which they did, several hours later. They told me that Tylenol was not a prescription drug. So I explained the whole story to them.

Finally, the doctor agreed to write a prescription.

So began my search for a pharmacist who was able to compound medicine and understood the scope of a corn allergy. Compounding is a dying art.

I started with my insurance company. They gave me the name of a pharmacy in another state and said they would not cover it mail order. When I pointed out the difficulty with procuring a plane ticket just to pick up an OTC pain killer, they came up with the name of a pharmacy that was a bit closer. Just a 3 or 4 hour drive. Not a big deal, but since I live sandwiched between two major metropolitan areas less than an hour away, I was hoping to find something a bit closer. I called my local pharmacist again.

She had found a compounding pharmacist. My exaltation was short lived, however, when the com[ounding pharmacist explained to me that people with corn allergies just don’t understand that corn starch isn’t really corn. (Its just made from corn) He agreed to compound Tylenol using microcrystalline cellulose. Which I looked up, since its on the corn allergy list. Originally, microcrystalline cellulose was derived from tree bark, however now it is commonly derived from any fibrous plant click here and scroll to #22. He refused to verify the source, since by doing the compounding he would be doing me a huge favor anyways. After all, I’m the one refusing to use corn starch just because it makes me sick.

So I kept looking. I found another pharmacist who was certified to compound. But he really wasn’t interested in compounding an otc strenght pain killer. It wasn’t worth his time or effort. Its available mass produced over the counter under many name brands and generic formulations.

He tried to help me find a suitable OTC medication. They all contained corn. He suggested that inactive ingredients weren’t really active and therefore wouldn’t cause a reaction. I think I started to cry again. He took pity on me and agreed to order the materials and compound some acetaminophen.

Finally, about a month after my headache that I would have liked to have taken something for…I had a small bottle of OTC strength acetaminophen (compounded the old fashioned way) in my hand.

Next time I get a headache, it will be worth its weight in gold.

Wellshire Farms - Allergy Search - Corn Contamination

Well, I have Good News and Bad News.

Good News: Wellshire Farms has an Allergy Database on their website. Which allows you to search for foods without your allergies. HURRAH!

Bad News: For corn its not very accurate. Things listed being corn-free may not be. One person took the list provided to the grocery store only to find the packages claiming corn. Another person reacted to supposedly corn-free items, only to find out later that the packaging is dusted with corn starch.

**** Update: Wellshire Farm's lactic acid culture is corn-based. This information is also not included in the Wellshire Farms allergy-search for corn.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Whole Foods - 365 sodas - Corn Allergy caution

Whole Foods, a store many of us use often to provide us with corn-free foods, has changed their 365 sodas to be corn-free or so they claim.

Corn syrup has not been an ingredient in the 365 Everyday Value Canned Sodas (all flavors) for many years. The citric acid is sourced from citrus fruits. There is no corn in this product.
Thank you for your support of Whole Foods Market.
Christina|Whole Foods Market Private Label|
Whole Foods Market| 550 Bowie St | Austin TX 78703|
phone 512.477.5566 x20020|fax:512.482.7650|"

So being the doubter I always am, I wrote them again specifically asking about any corn in their natural flavors.

The citric acid for our 365 colas is from citrus. There is 0.15 to 0.17 grams per 100 milliliter of citric acid in the sodas. This is about 0.5 or one half gram per can of soda
None of the flavors are distilled from corn alcohol.
I hope this answers your questions and enjoy the sodas!!
Jason Hays
Product Information Associate, Private Label
550 Bowie | Austin, TX 78703 | (p) 512.542.0581 | (f) 512.482.7581"

So they should be corn-free right? So many of us set about the next step of verifying corn-free status. Human Guinea Pigging.

I, myself, got brave and tried them. I tried the Cherry Vanilla flavor. I didn't like the taste much but for testing purposes I drank the whole can. After a few minutes, I started feeling funky. Then the corn reaction started setting in. I was (and still am) really regretting drinking the whole can.

Several others have also said they've reacted to this product. Avoiding Corn Forum - 365 sodas

If you can tolerate corn-derived citric acid, ethyl alcohols, etc. in other products, this product will most likely not be a problem for you. But for those of us who react to even the smallest drop of corn derivative, I would not consider the 365 sodas a dietary option.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Organic Valley Dairy Products - Confirmed Corn

Organic Valley has been a staple in many of our homes as one of the "safe" corn-free milks out there.

While their milks are still corn-free (except any processed at plant 55-1224), some of their other products contain corn or have a possible corn contamination.

Unsafe Organic Valley products: (original post)

Ultra-pasteurized Heavy Whipping Cream

Chocolate Milk

Lactose-Free Milk

Buttermilkand Buttermilk Powder


All Soy products

Sour Cream

Also, the following Organic Valley cheeses are put into packaging that is dusted with cornstarch.

Raw Sharp & Raw Milk Cheddar
Pepper Jack
Baby Swiss

Thanks to Catherine for investigating and reporting this information.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why you can't cook for me. An editorial.

Food. It seems that every social event that takes place in the United States revolves around food. Lets meet for coffee. Lets do lunch. Lets celebrate at your favorite restaurant. Got a cram session for finals? Order pizza. Had a rotten day? Ben and Jerry to the rescue.

America has a love affair with food. But if you have food allergies, social scenes can be a real nightmare. (If you can’t get around the idea that someone with food allergies might not want to just sit and socialize with friends who ARE eating at a restaurant ask yourself this…would you really be smiling and relaxed sipping a glass of water and staring at a brownie that you knew had been laced with arsenic? The ambience is nice, but the poison would probably make you uncomfortable.)

Some well meaning friends try to get around the restaurant hassle by “simply” inviting their allergy suffering friends over for dinner. This sounds like a great idea. Its very thoughtful, and anyone with an allergy will appreciate the gesture. But, especially if the problem is CORN, we’ll say no, thank you. We don’t want to be rude. We aren’t saying anything against your cooking. We simply know how hard it was to learn our restrictions, and really don’t want to take a risk. (Honestly, you’re not going to feel too good if we race from your table to the hospital.)

What could go wrong? The most obvious problem is the reading of ingredients. Unless you are cooking from scratch garden-style, there will be plenty of ingredients to read, and you need to know how to read a label. A can of roasted tomatoes containing tomatoes, citric acid, and salt is not safe for corn allergic individuals. Many brands of fresh meat are not safe for corn allergic individuals. Bagged salad greens are not safe for corn allergic individuals. Its crazy, it’ll make you crazy, it makes *us* crazy…but its true. We’ve had a steep learning curve and we just don’t want any more mistakes. Especially since there are no medications available to counteract our symptoms. They all contain corn. So if we get “corned,” we have to wait the reaction out or risk making it worse. Your famous spaghetti sauce with Aunt Myra’s secret ingredients isn’t worth that risk. Sorry.

Another serious potential problem is cross contamination. If you use a wooden spoon to stir the spaghetti, any protein particles buried in the porous wood from that big batch of corn bread you baked last Christmas can be released into the cooking water. Any bacteria are long dead, its not a health hazard. But it is an allergy risk. Crumbs in the knife rack pose a hazard, as does the kitchen sponge you use to swipe off the counters and the kitchen towel you’ve been drying your hands on all week.

And then there’s the simple risk of autopilot. We all use it. In fact, most allergy sufferers have “gotten” themselves multiple times in the beginning by going on autopilot. My husband has a good friend with a dairy allergy. His new in laws went to great lengths to make him some dairy free breadsticks. But they inadvertently poisoned him by buttering the pan. It was automatic, the butter was handy, they didn’t even realize what they’d done until he was at the hospital. For corn allergy sufferers, the risks increase, as corn truly is everywhere.

I think its sufficient to say…you can’t cook for me. Its not your food, or your cooking ability. It’s the corn.

The hidden risks in your own kitchen

Once we’d confirmed that food was the main culprit in my health problems, the kitchen became a very important place. I could no longer eat out. It was too risky. There was no “Oh rats, I burned dinner. Lets order pizza.” A burnt dinner meant dinner was a little on the crunchy side. And maybe a little extra dessert.

We also learned the hard way how important it was to clean out the kitchen and start new.

At first, I thought it would be okay to slowly weed out the things I couldn’t use. I tried to foist oatmeal off on the kids, but kept getting “just a little” sick each time I made it. I made cookies for the bake sale, thinking it was fine as long as I didn’t taste any. And managed to drop them off at the bake sale before high tailing it home to be near my own bath room.

My husband made rice. He stirred it with a wooden spoon and served to me before seasoning his own. I spent the rest of the night hugging a heating pad.

What went wrong? The problem is simply a matter of *cross contamination*. When baking with flour, have you ever noticed those cute little white smudges that appear on nose and cheeks, or little flour hand prints where you wipe your hands? Well, a few flecks of flour never hurt anyone who can eat the end product. Even if the flecks end up on a clean glass, or in a water cup, or transferred back to your hands when you dry them off before grabbing an apple, they are harmless. But, if you have celiac disease…or are allergic to the wheat or the corn in the vitamins used to enrich the wheat, those flecks of flour are dangerous.

For the newly diagnosed, there are many dangers lurking in the kitchen. When baking, I used to often use the same measuring spoons in all of my dry ingredients. Flour and sugar get mixed in the bowl, why not use the same measuring cup? But when I went gluten free…my 5 lb bag of sugar attacked me. Last time I had made cookies, I’d measured out the flour, then dipped the cup into the sugar. Likewise…many spices contained traces of baking powder (which contains corn starch). All opened baking ingredients had to go.

Another potential hazard comes from seasoned non stick bakeware. The lovely flavor that cast iron skillets are prized for comes from the foods that have been previously cooked in them. And why can’t you scrub them with soap? Because if you do, the food prepared in them later will taste of soap. For the general public, it’s a matter of taste. For those with food allergies, it’s a health hazard.

Anything porous is dangerous. Ever look very closely at a wooden spoon? They have all sorts of lovely nooks and crannies. Perfect spots for grains of flour, particles of corn syrup, or a bit of baking powder to hide. And be released later into a big pot of soup or stew. Pre used wooden utensils must go.

A great guide to de-contaminating the kitchen (This was designed for people with celiacs, but works for other food allergies as well) is found here: How To De-Contaminate the Kitchen.

And a list of potential sources of cross contamination: (again, written with celiacs in mind, but a good basic guideline) : Cross-Contamination: Potential Issues.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Current Testing for Corn Allergy Unreliable

There is a good article about the unreliability of corn allergy testing methods published by an unbelieable source.

Corn Refiners Association

Their Food Safety Information Papers (PDF) describe very well how inaccurate current testing is in reguards to corn allergy, and even states that not much research has been devoted to corn allergy.

Their point of the article is to claim that corn isn't an allergy risk or at least not a big one for the general population, but I found the article much more pertinent to proving that they don't know enough about it to really make that statement.

"Though allergens in other food systems have been well characterized, very little work has been devoted to identifying allergens in corn or corn ingredients."

It also gives an explaination for the unreliability of the testing methods used today such as RAST and the skin prick test.

"Most corn allergy diagnoses reported in the scientific literature are based upon results from the skin prick test or radioallergosorbent test (RAST). However, these tests do not give reliable results with corn extracts because of the strong botanical similarities between corn and grasses, and the likelihood of cross-reaction with pre-existing grass pollen antibodies."

While the CRA is trying to prove that corn allergy is less likely than it shows on tests, those of us who've had the unreliable testing done know that those tests are unreliable both ways. You can test positive and not be allergic to it, or you can test negative and still be allergic to it.

What we need is more accurate testing, and more research into defining the allergens in corn. According to the article, the only true way to detect a corn allergy is by the use of double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC). Yet when most of us with a corn allergy have gone to our doctors about this very problem, our doctors are completely unwilling to do such testing.

And honestly, with today's food supply.. It would be nearly impossible to conduct such a study accurately to make certain the subjects were corn-free when doing a placebo. Because, if you can't make a corn-free testing diet, how can you accurately measure a test of corn diet?