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Corn-Free Diet


Allergy to corn is a common food allergy. A corn-free diet removes not only products made primarily from corn, but also avoids foods containing ingredients derived from corn. People allergic to corn also should avoid non-food items containing corn derivatives, such as some medicines and adhesives.

Why do people follow this diet?

Doctors sometimes recommend a corn-free diet to help determine if someone is allergic to corn. People who have been diagnosed as corn-allergic follow a corn-free diet to avoid the symptoms triggered when they eat corn––reactions that can vary considerably from person to person.

What are the symptoms?

Corn allergy symptoms may include any of the common symptoms of food allergies, including skin rashes or hives, gastrointestinal distress, breathing problems, or many other possible symptoms. Although in severe cases, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, anaphylaxis to corn is a rare event.

What do I need to avoid?

Most people who are allergic to corn are allergic to the protein in corn. Corn oil poses little risk of causing an allergic reaction because processing removes almost all the protein; however, people who are highly sensitive to corn should avoid corn oil, too.

To avoid corn and corn products ask about ingredients at restaurants and others’ homes, read food labels, and become familiar with the technical or scientific terms for corn. The following list is not complete. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.

Beverages to avoid:

  • Coffee Rich
  • Evaporated milk
  • Frozen orange juice (except Minute Maid)
  • Gin, whiskey, and any alcoholic beverage or soft drink containing malt, malt syrup, or malt extract
  • Hawaiian Punch
  • Hi-C
  • Infant formulas, some (Enfamil, Modilac, and Similac)
  • Instant coffee
  • Mott’s Apple Juice

Fruits to avoid:

  • Candied fruits, canned fruits, and dried fruits that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Frozen and sweetened fruits that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Fruit desserts that contain corn syrup or HFCS

Dairy to avoid:

  • Ice cream and sherbets that contain corn syrup of HFCS
  • Flavored yogurts that contain corn syrup or HFCS

Vegetables to avoid:

  • Corn
  • Hominy
  • Ketchup that contains corn syrup or HFCS
  • Succotash

Baking ingredients to avoid:

  • Baking powders, most (corn-free baking powders are available that use arrowroot powder or potato starch instead of cornstarch)
  • Carmel coloring (may contain corn syrup)
  • Cornstarch
  • Cornmeal
  • Vanilla extract (many brands contain corn syrup; some brands do not)
  • Yeast (except Red Star dry yeast)

Baked goods to avoid:

  • Commercial backed goods that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Biscuits, Bisquick, and pancake mixes that contain corn syrup
  • Granola bars and cookies that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Pie crusts and cake mixes that contain corn syrup or HFCS

Cereals to avoid:

  • Cereals listing corn, corn syrup, or HFCS on labels
  • Corn flakes
  • Grits
  • Pre-sweetened cereals (most)

Sweeteners to avoid:

  • Confectioners sugar (many brands contain cornstarch; some do not)
  • “Corn sugar”
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose (iodized table salt contains dextrose)
  • “Fruit sugar”
  • Glucose
  • Golden syrup
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • “Invert sugar,” “invert syrup”
  • Malt, malt syrup, and malt extract
  • Sucrose labeled “from corn”
  • Treacle

Desserts and snacks to avoid:

  • Candy, frostings, and carob desserts that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Fritos
  • Graham crackers
  • Jellies, jams, and peanut butter that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Jello
  • Marshmallows
  • Popcorn
  • Products containing xanthan gum
  • Puddings that contain corn syrup or HFCS

Meats to avoid:

  • Bacon and cooked meats in gravies that contain corn syrup or HFCS
  • Cured ham, sausages, and wieners that contain corn syrup, HFCS, or glucono-delta lactone (GDL)
  • Luncheon meats and sandwich spreads that contain corn syrup or HFCS

Medicines to avoid:

  • Dextrose is common in IV solutions.
  • Most solid or liquid medicines and dietary supplements contain cornstarch. Inquire to the manufacturer, because excipients (additional ingredients) may not necessarily appear on the label.

Miscellaneous products to avoid:

  • Bath or body powder (may contain corn starch)
  • Corn oil is used in emollient creams and toothpastes.
  • Corn syrup is often used as a texturizer and carrying agent in cosmetics.
  • Envelopes, labels, stickers, stamps, and tape may contain corn.
  • Plastic wrap, paper cups and plates can be coated with corn oil.
  • Some plastic food wrappers contain corn.
  • Sorbitol in oral hygiene products (mouthwash and toothpaste) is commercially produced from corn.
  • Zest soap

Best bets

The following foods are good replacements for corn in the diet:

Replacing medicines and other products that contain corn-derived ingredients may require advice from a pharmacist or other knowledgeable professionals

Are there any groups or books?

The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook: Over 350 Natural Food Recipes, Free of All Common Food Allergens by Marjorie Hurt-Jones, Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 2001.

The Food Allergy Network (information on food allergies, label reading, food preparation, and management and education programs)

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

International Food Information Council Foundation


Crippa M and Pasolini G. Allergic reactions due to glove-lubricant-powder in health-care workers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1997;70:399–402.

Park H and Nahm DH. Identification of IgE-binding components in occupational asthma caused by corn dust. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1997;79:75–9.

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