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Corn Allergy

Corn Allergy

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Updated April 23, 2014

Updated April 23, 2014

Corn Allergy

Corn is a cereal grain with proteins that are similar to those in other cereal grains, such as wheat. Unlike wheat, which is a common food allergen, there are relatively few reports of allergic reactions to corn. However, the reports that do exist show reactions can be severe. These reports include anaphylaxis as a result of eating corn and corn-related foods, as well as severe reactions after exposure to cornstarch in surgical gloves.

People with an allergy to one cereal grain often show positive allergy tests to other cereal grains. However, these tests often represent false positive tests, meaning that no allergic reaction occurs with eating many of the other cereal grains. It is important to realize, however, that a positive allergy test places a person at high risk for an allergic reaction to that food, and the food should only be eaten if directed by a physician.

Allergic reactions can occur as a result of eating both raw and cooked corn. Those with corn allergy may also react to corn pollen (typically with allergic rhinitis and/or asthma), grass pollen and cornstarch. As with other food allergies, avoidance of corn and corn-related foods is the main way to prevent future reactions.

How to Follow a Corn-Free Diet

All labels should be read closely for products containing corn or corn products. The following is a list of foods that may contain corn (not an exhaustive list):
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn oil
  • Corn meal
  • Cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil
  • Maize
  • Popcorn
  • Grits
  • Hominy
  • Corn sugars (dextrose, Dyno, Cerelose, Puretose, Sweetose, glucose)
  • Margarine
  • Corn chips (Tortilla chips, Fritos)
  • Corn fritters
  • Breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes)
  • Corn tortillas

Certain paper containers (boxes, cups, plates, milk cartons) may contain corn, and the inner surface of plastic food wrappers may be coated with cornstarch.

Use caution with the following foods, which may include sources of corn from various products, such as cornstarch, corn syrup and corn/vegetable oils:

  • Vegetable soup
  • Commercial soups
  • Peanut butter
  • Various meats (cold cuts, ham, hotdogs, sausages)
  • Breaded or fried foods
  • Cheese
  • Chili
  • Chop suey
  • Chow mein
  • Cheese spreads
  • Fish sticks
  • Fried potatoes or fried rice (if corn oil is used)
  • Mixed vegetables (frozen, canned)
  • Succotash
  • Pork and beans
  • Creamed vegetables
  • Breads dusted with corn meal
  • Graham crackers
  • Baking mixes
  • Pancakes (certain mixes)
  • Pancake syrups
  • English muffins
  • Tacos
  • Tamales
  • Polenta
  • Gravy (thickened with corn starch, for instance)
  • Salad dressings
  • Canned or frozen fruits sweetened with corn syrup
  • Dates and other fruit confections
  • Ice creams, sherbets
  • Chocolate milk, milk shakes, soy milks, eggnog
  • American wines, whiskey, gin, beer, ale
  • Carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola, 7-Up, etc
  • Lemonade
  • Instant coffees
  • Powdered sugar
  • Jams and jellies
  • Candies
  • Catsup
  • Chewing gums
  • Sauces
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Baking powder
  • Cake yeast
  • Bleached flour
  • Gelatin capsules
  • Adhesives (envelopes, stickers, stamps)
  • Toothpastes
  • Vitamin preparations
  • Laundry starch

In addition to the strict avoidance of any and all of the above foods, it is important to have an Epi-pen® available for emergency use at all times in case an accidental ingestion should occur.

A Medic-Alert® bracelet may be useful in severe forms of food allergy, so that emergency personnel can be aware of your medical condition if you are unable to communicate.

Sources:

Tanaka LG, El-Dahr JM, Lehrer SB. Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Corn Challenge Resulting in Anaphylaxis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001; 107:744.

Aresery M, Reish R, Fernandes J et al. Corn, Pollen, and Starch IgE Antibody Reactivity of DBPCFC Corn-Allergic Subjects. Abstract. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002; 110:S92.

Lakness J. Allergy Elimination Diets. In: Lawlor GJ, Fischer TJ, Adelman DC, eds. Manual of Allergy and Immunology. 3rd ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Co;1995:557-59.

Sampson HA. Adverse Reactions to Foods. In: Adkinson NF, Yunginger JW, Busse WW, et al, eds. Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice. 6th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby Publishing; 2003:1619-1644.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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