Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's poison to me

Oh good grief! (insert expletives of your choice here) A new self help allergy book has just been published, with many recipes that are purportedly "Dairy-free (no cow's milk), Egg-free, Corn-free, and Gluten-free (no wheat flour or other gluten flour)". If you are only egg, dairy and gluten free this is may be a good book, I don't know. If you have a corn allergy, this book unfortunately has plenty of hidden corn in the corn free recipes listed on the website, so please learn what corn is in before trying any of the recipes and accidentally poisoning yourself. The book is called, Food to Some, Poison to Others and is full of so-called "corn-free" recipes that are clearly poison the corn allergic. I need to write a letter to the author and/or publisher once I manage to calm down.

According to her website, the author has a two children and a husband with Celiac Disease and one child also is lactose intolerant. The write up does not list corn as one of their allergens, so I can imagine she may not know all common things corn is in -- HOWEVER, that does not excuse the publisher, the fact checker and the author from doing a little research on the internet to get the corn list and do a basic cross check before they list a recipe as corn free! Good grief people, Jenny Conner's Corn Allergens site with the list of the 180+ common ingredients that contain corn comes up first on a basic google search! It is not like this information is hidden in a underground vault guarded by Cerberus, two words typed into Google, "Corn Allergy" take you right to a link to Jenny's list and many more pointing out some basic issues for the corn allergic.

Before my head starts spinning around, let me give you an example. I am going to try to be calm and make this fun, you can play along. Find the corn in the ingredients from the recipe for Turkey Pesto Sandwiches, the recipe is listed as AF (Dairy-free, Egg-free, Corn-free, Gluten-free) from
  1. Turkey bacon slices
  2. AF Gluten-free bread*, toasted (examples given Brown Rice Frozen Bread, Tapioca Bread
  3. green or red lettuce (no iceberg please)
  4. slices of tomato
  5. 1/4 cup soy mayonnaise + her pesto from another recipe (Soy mayonnaise: Veganaise
How many of these ingredients typically contain corn? If you said 3, you get a gold star. Where is the corn?
1. Turkey bacon. Most meat in the US is processed with citric acid washes, to kill bacteria, has corn based flavoring (mmmm...) added and is sometimes put on those little absorbent pads at the butcher (more corn). If anyone out there actually knows of a place that has truly corn free turkey bacon, please let the Corn Free Foods list know. This needs a warning, at the very least.

2. GF Bread, if it is commercially made or if the recipe calls for xanthan gum, as most Gluten Free recipes for bread use it-- as the corn allergic know is a gum commonly made from fermenting corn sugar with Xanthomonas campestris bacterium, so it contains CORN!!! Most, if not all, commercial GF bread contains xanthan gum and citric acid (more corn) and often times corn-grown yeast. Absolutely poison to me.

3. Wax on the tomatoes. Corn. Not all wax has corn, you can get lucky sometimes with organic producers that use pure beeswax, but with "industrial organic," you are still likely to get corned.

The lettuce and the Veganaise are fine, as long as that lettuce is not the pre-washed bagged lettuce. That lettuce is also citric acid washed and can cause allergic reactions. Uggh.

So, 2/5 of the ingredients are actually AF (Dairy-free, Egg-free, Corn-free, Gluten-free).

Imagine you bought this cookbook because you have several people with severe food allergies coming over for lunch. One with a dairy allergy, one with an egg allergy, one with a corn allergy and one with Celiac disease. Now you have one lunch guest going to the hospital. Bad host! Bad! But the corn allergic guest in the ER due to an anaphylactic reaction is not really your fault since the recipes claim to be corn free. Now I'm getting cranky again. I just just hate it when people try to kill me with bad information, even if the the recipe sounds good.

Are you up for another round of find the corn? Here are the ingredients from another simple sandwich:

1. Turkey/Sausage loaf (the recipe for that is also given, ingredients for that that generally do contain corn and should at least have a warning are:

  • Turkey, ground
  • Turkey sausage
  • Carrot -- a regular carrot (dirt on) is fine, the ones that have been washed and peeled contain citric acid --corn-tamination
  • Tomato Paste - citric acid
  • Salt - iodized salt, or any other salt that has a flowing agent added contains corn :( Sea salt without flowing agents is fine
  • Organic Worcestershire Sauce -- link provided to one which has no corn syrup, but still contains the distinctly corn-y ingredients of xanthan gum, "natural flavors" and regular salt. Joey's Cooking Corner (Corn Free Cooking Blog) has a recipe for homemade corn free worcestershire sauce.
  • Rice Bread Crumbs or Rice Thins -- again, needs a warning to check ingredients for citric acid and xanathan gum in the bread
  • turkey bacon

2. AF Gluten-free bread -- same issue as before

3. Organic Ketchup -- link provided to one with no corn syrup, but the ingredients list "vinegar" -- that means grain vinegar which usually contains corn. Bad for the corn allergic ( I would think it is bad for the wheat allergic too), but according to by brother who is Celiac it is gluten free. I only know about what makes me sick. I've only been able to get corn free ketchup only at the Kosher for Passover stores.

4. Soy Mayonnaise

5. Leaf green or red lettuce

Again, our answer is 3 main ingredients in the sandwich and 8 sub-ingredients in the turkey loaf contain, or have the potential to contain corn and at least need a warning for the corn allergic. The soy mayonnaise and the lettuce are fine for your corn allergic guest.

I started writing this to calm down, so that I would not dash off an incoherent rant filled letter to the author. Initially, I was excited when I saw corn free recipes, I was ready to go buy the book! Then I got that cold finger of fear going down my spine as I read the few recipes on the website that purport to be corn free. I don't want to write something nasty, I haven't read the book, but at the very least the information on the website needs to be modified before someone newly diagnosed with a corn allergy (who doesn't know enough to know these recipes are full of corn) gets hurt. I still need to calm down enough to say this tactfully, but after dissecting the recipes I'm angry and hungry.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that that the corn allergic want to be included, in cookbooks and allergy free food. We get very excited when a tasty corn free food comes on the market.Enjoy Life initially labeled their products as free from common allergens, including corn. Many of us tried their cookies and granola bars, assuming that the xanthan gum was not grown on corn. I did a happy dance in the aisle of Whole Foods when I read the box and bought every flavor, I couldn't believe it! It was too good to be true, someone had included us in the food allergic specialty foods group! How cool. I was ready to order cases of the stuff.

Throwing caution to the wind, I ate a whole bar in one go. I reacted horribly and so did others. Several people contacted the company to try to figure out where the corn was and why we were getting sick on "corn-free" food. Turns out that their supplier grows the xanthan gum on corn, they were not aware that this was an issue for folks with a corn allergy. Instead of getting xanthan gum grown on a different medium like beets, which is possible, they changed their packaging. It no longer says that it is free of corn. Kudos to the company for quickly correcting their information, *sigh* for giving up on us so quickly. Right now, I am really excited about the Yummy Earth organic lollypops. So good, no corn syrup, no chemicals and the colors come from organic black carrots and pumpkins!

So, how do you tell someone, who has worked hard to develop this book, that her recipes are poison? Well, poison to me. Maybe I'll feel nicer after I've had something to eat.


Unknown said...

Really interesting post. I will be so anxious to hear if you receive a response, and what they'll say. I wonder what the liability is in a case like this...

Christine said...

Thanks, I haven't seen the book but I assume there is some sort of CYA line in there about individual users being responsible for what they eat / need to be knowledgeable about their allergy. Otherwise it would be too dangerous to publish anything for people with allergies.

Still, a basic Google search would have saved a lot of grief.

Libby said...

Thanks so much for an informative post. The FDA is accepting comments on food labeling for an upcoming hearing, and this strikes me as exactly the kind of feedback they need to receive. Libby