Saturday, December 30, 2006

the corn analysis (and a word of wiz)

I keep forgetting that allergies is a big business. Look around, the next time you are in a supermarket or drugstore. See all the stuff marked 'hypoallergenic?' There's no way that whatever-it-is is allergy-free, since folks can be allergic to anything, but it just means that the industry's best guess is that most people aren't allergic to it. Thanks, guys.

Glancing through here I was surprised to discover that Nestle and Mead Johnson had even tried to claim that they had 'allergy reducing' formulas. Faked some science to get there, but today I suspect they wouldn't even try. Doctors would howl - but I bet shares would go up, even so. No, wait, remember "cushioning proteins?" The reason for that bit of advertising is, not only to hook onto the 'soft for your tender baby' idea, which I cannot argue with, but also to counter the knowldgeable, who will talk about the cushioning effect of immunoglobulins on the immature GI tract. I guess the artificial babyfood folks are still trying. Hm.

Staggering under the weight of corn's presence in my world, here is my wildly incomplete list of safe/unsafe kid related products. For a complete list of corn and corn by-products in food, check here for the various aliases used by corn. Please note that some of the names, such as citric acid or sugar, can come from non-corn sources - always ask. And look here for corn-based products (incomplete!)or here (especially page two, a fantastic chart of products that use corn). For those of you for whom this is a practical question, specifically in regards to the Toddles, the answer is this: he's reacted to corn, corn meal, corn starch, and it looks like he's sensitive to corn sugars via my milk (which means yes, if we fed corn sugars to him, he'd be miserable). Is he sensitive to corn-derived ethanol? Corn-based alcohol? I suspect that not the alcohols if they were a high proof, but I'm declining to test this. Oooh, drunk baby. Fun. No. Citric acid, however, seems to fly under his radar.

In response to the readers and surprising number of lurkers who feel medically boxed in by the boys, I offer this: don't panic. (Anyone? anyone? They made a movie out of the book, people, come on!) To have us over, just vaccuum, wipe down counters and avoid disposables. Cook simply: a broiled fish, rice and veg is our happiest food. Spices are okay, so long as you know what each one is (a spice mix is a potential problem for the Eldest), or cruise the blog for recipes. For shabbat meals, sweep the floor and change the tablecloth if you had challah at a previous meal. Done. You won't break the kids with a crumb so small you missed it during sweeping, unless you have a passel of unruly kinder, in which case we should come for Friday dinner, instead.

Or you can always invite yourselves over to us!

The List:
Okay, here's the deal: all items are based on my communication with the company, or my experience with the product (i.e., allergic response). None of this is official, and there are no guarantees that the company hasn't changed its formulations since I checked them out. My suggestion is to start with the ones that were safe, last I checked, and query those companies regarding their products.

Always ask! But be specific when you ask, checking for 1. corn ingredients, 2. corn by-products, and 3. made on the same machinery as corn containing foods. And don't let them fob you off with a pre-canned 'gluten free' list of items - not everybody counts corn when they write up their gluten free lists.

Baby Food:
Earth's Best impresses with their inability to answer the question. They are owned by Hain Celestial foods, a company that has always been admirable in their ability to not answer questions about ingredients...

Beechnut: our nutritionist says that Beechnut is the best choice, short of making things yourself. They are responsive via customer service - though I'll note that they didn't answer my email.

Gerber: here is their reply, somewhat edited for brevity
Q - The citric and ascorbic acid used in many of the baby foods - are these corn derived? A - Citric Acid is either dextrose derived from corn starch or sucrose from beet or cane sugar. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C ) is derived from corn.
(further inquiry reveals that they cannot tell me which products are made using corn-derived citric acid and which are made with beet/cane-derived. Thanks a heap, guys.)
Q - Is any kind of testing performed to see if residual traces are left from the processing of one food, when processing another on the same machinery? A - Yes.
Bottom line: don't use Gerber baby food if you have a corn allergy.


Seventh Generation - also corn-free, also responsive via email.
Pampers (their response: Corn (corn derivatives) is NOT found in our diapers at all.) But a cocked eyebrow in their direction for the amount of personal information that they demanded in exchange for being able to send off my question. Huh. But look out for the Pampers wipes, as a number of allergy moms report bad reactions to those.
Luvs - boo, hiss to P& G for lousy on-line customer service. When asked, they emailed back telling me that there is lots of information on their website, and why don't I go look at it? Idiots. I looked - the site is full of advertisements and yes, information. But not the answer to my question. Eventually, I got this: No. Corn is NOT found in our diapers at all. Thanks, guys. I'd avoid Luvs, if only because they have lousy information dissemination.
Huggies (In answer to your inquiry, there could be trace amounts of cornstarch in the adhesives.We hope that this information is helpful. Thanks again for visiting our web site.Renee Consumer ServicesKimberly-Clark Corp.) Moms from my allergy group report diaper difficulties with corn allergy babies and Huggies.
Especially for Baby: the Babies R Us cheapo brand. They have no e-contact information posted on the Toys R Us website, nor does the website on the packaging ( make reference to diapers. Useless, alas, and note that I have no evidence for this, other than my son's raw, red lower back. But I suspect there is corn in there somewhere... For those who want to know, you can call them (1-800-ToysRUs or 1-888-BabyRUs). Me, I have all the data I need.

Art Supplies:
art supplies can contain gluten (wheat, corn, other grains), and should be checked out before buying. Like beauty and health products, allergy labelling for these is not required.
contains gluten.
"All of our products are gluten free except for the Elmer's Finger Paints. The finger paints contain wheat and oat products." However, Elmer's is not responsive via email, so be wary.

Discount School Supply
Kudos to: for being extremely responsive! Their initial response re:gluten didn't include corn products, but they backed right up and gave me the following list of gluten/corn free items, then confirmed that these are nut/peanut/dairy/sesame/poppy/pumpkin/zucchini-free:
Colorations Simply Tempera paint (Washable/nonwashable contain corn), Colorations Multicultural paint (colors like me) (contains corn) all contain corn.
Safe items are:
BioColor paint - Regular & Fluorescent
Colorations Liquid Watercolor
Colorations Washable Finger paint & Glitter Finger paint
Colorations Glitter paint
Colorations Activity Paint: Regular, Fluorescent, Sparkle, & Metallic
Colorations Puffy Paint
BioPutty Solution
BiocColor Fabric Medium
Wheat & Gluten (including corn-free) Free (play) Dough

Crayola: safe items are:
colored pencils
regular (nonwashable) markers
twistable crayons
color wonder marker (requires the special paper)
regular crayons (have corn in label adhesives, which can just be torn off, I suspect)
Avoid all washable crayons, markers, paints. Finger paints have both corn and wheat.

most kid medicines are sweetened...with corn syrup. Examples include Tylenol, alas, and the non-dye-free Benadryl.
Feverall suppositories (acetaminophen) contain polysorbate 80 (corn derived) and vegetable oil (palm oil). Consult your allergist as to whether this is appropriate. Major kudos to the maker of Feverall, who had someone promptly return my call, and who had carefully educated that person, to boot!
Most IV fluids use corn or corn derivatives as their sugar source, and thankfully latex gloves are disappearing from use, as the white powder inside them includes cornstarch, alas. My recommendation: if you are going to the ER, carry a list of corn and corn derivatives, because the ER staff are unlikely to recognize corn as mallitol, for example.
Corn also shows up in a number of antibiotics - if you require antibiotics, have the PCP/ER staff consult with your allergist.

latex balloons: ever wonder what that white stuff is inside the balloon? Usually cornstarch, folks..
biodegradable plastics
waxed paper plates, cups
air freshener we buy a Trader Joe's air freshener, and rarely use it (I prefer opening a window). Well, it has corn-based ethanol, and one day the Man staggered out of the bathroom to tell me, I just covered the bathroom in corn! Yup, he did. Smelled nice, though. Again, see this for a list of household products that contain corn.
any number of toiletries....sigh.
Finally, this honest but depressing comment from quote about corn from YummyEarth co-founder, Rob Wunder:
"Because so many moms have contacted YummyEarth inquiring about corn-free we looked into the “corn issue” with a food scientist (Ron Schnitzer, owner of Sani-Pure Food Laboratories in Saddle Brook, NJ that provides over 100,000 different food tests). This is what I learned: While YummyEarth organic lollipops and candies do not have corn syrup (we use organic tapioca syrup with no added sulfites) or corn based citric acid (we use non-GMO beet sugar based citric acid), anyone with corn sensitivities should know IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A FOOD MANUFACTURER TO CLAIM THAT A FOOD IS CORN FREE (unless it is broccoli or something like that) down to 1ppm (parts per million) because 1: corn seems to be virtually an omnipresent food product that can exist in immeasurable amounts (50 or so parts per million) in foods whether you plan the food to be corn free or not. 2: it seems impossible with today’s existing tests to prove that ANY “corn-free” food does not actually have some microscopic amount of corn because unlike tests for peanuts which can go as low as 1ppm (parts per million) there appears to be no test for corn below around 50 ppm. It appears that the FDA does not regulate the claim “corn free” while it does appear to give guidance to manufacturers to claim that there is no soy, for example, even if soy is present below the current testable ppm (parts per million). By way of example, if the FDA acknowledges that today’s testing for soy can only go down to 35ppm, then it appears that any manufacturer can claim “soy-free” even if soy exists in the product at levels of 3ppm (which may not even be able to harm anyone). 3: Corn protein would not exist in YummyEarth organic lollipops or candy drops because even if there is some corn present in some level of ppm it would be in an immeasurably low amount of corn sugar, not corn protein. I am not trying to say that our product has corn, but since it appears there is no FDA approved way for ANYONE, including YummyEarth, to say there is no corn in their food, including YummyEarth organic lollipops and candy drops, I will simply say this: There is no corn syrup and there is no corn based citric acid in YummyEarth organic lollipops and candy drops. Please consume using the same discretion you would use when consuming any other product you hope does not have corn, but might actually have some immeasurably low level of corn, due to the apparent omnipresence of corn in our food supply."


mother in israel said...

I think you have your next book topic.

It's amazing how often I have to explain to mothers that any kind of formula (except pre-digested types) expose their babies to allergies and other risks of early solids. The formula companies have convinced parents that formula is the equivalent of bf and that "exclusive breastfeeding" until six months includes formula use. They are wary about early solids, and often wait longer than six months to start that, but not about formula.

YOu're welcome to eat at our house anytime!

purple_kangaroo said...

Thanks for the great info. When I checked with Earth's Best, Beechnut and Gerber they all told me that the citric acid in their baby foods could be made from corn. We use Organic Baby baby food, but I just called again this week and haven't ehard back from them. I'm not yet completely satisfied that they are corn-free.

With all the brands, you're probably safest with the plain vegetables that have no citric acid added, but I think we had cross-contamination-like reactions with the Earth's Best.

I make my on baby food in the blender and freeze it in small portions, and save the jar food for outings.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I have this really neat opportunity to work with LUVS’ new Bear Hug Stretch diapers, and I wanted to tell you more about it. Maybe this might change your mind about LUVS.

I couldn’t find your email address here, so I thought I would try to reach you this way.

Please let me know via email if this is something you want to hear more about. Thank you so much!