Corn Allergy and Following a Corn-Free Diet

Read labels carefully for corn or corn products

Shucking corn
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Corn is a cereal grain with proteins that are similar to those in other cereal grains, such as wheat. Unlike wheat, though, which is a common food allergen, there are relatively few reports of allergic reactions to corn.

However, the reports that do exist show that 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.

Allergic Reactions to Corn

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.

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.

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 (please note this is 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) and corn fritters
  • Breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes)
  • Corn tortillas

In addition, 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, commercial soups, and chili
  • Peanut butter
  • Various meats (cold cuts, ham, hot dogs, sausages)
  • Breaded or fried foods
  • Cheese and cheese spreads
  • Chop suey and chow mein
  • Fish sticks
  • Fried potatoes or fried rice (if corn oil is used)
  • Mixed vegetables (frozen, canned) and creamed vegetables
  • Succotash
  • Pork and beans
  • Bread dusted with corn meal
  • Graham crackers
  • Baking mixes, Pancakes (certain mixes) and pancake syrups
  • English muffins
  • Tacos and tamales
  • Polenta
  • Gravy (thickened with corn starch, for instance)
  • Salad dressings and sauces
  • Canned or frozen fruits sweetened with corn syrup
  • Dates and other fruit confections
  • Ice creams, sherbets
  • Chocolate milk, milkshakes, soy milk, eggnog
  • American wines, whiskey, gin, beer, ale
  • Carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola, 7-Up, etc
  • Lemonade
  • Instant coffees
  • Jams and jellies
  • Candies and chewing gums
  • Catsup
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Baking powder, powdered sugar, cake yeast, and bleached flour
  • Gelatin capsules
  • Adhesives (envelopes, stickers, stamps)
  • Toothpastes
  • Vitamin preparations
  • Laundry starch

A Word From Verywell

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.

View Article Sources
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  • 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.
  • Tanaka, L.G., El-Dahr, J.M., Lehrer, S.B. (2001). Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Corn Challenge Resulting in Anaphylaxis.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 107:744.