Corn Allergy and Sensitivity – What You Need to Know

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Corn allergy is considered rare but can be severe. Other adverse reactions to corn may be more common.

Avoiding corn can be very challenging because corn is more than just a food ingredient. 

Corn products can be found in many processed foods, in personal care products, and in medical products. It is used for many things, such as preserving fresh produce and as a sweetener. 

Because corn is one of the most useful plants, it can be very challenging to live a corn-free life. However, with knowledge and planning, you can safely eat a variety of foods.

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Corn Food Family

Corn is also known as Maize. It originates from Mexico and is derived from wild grass (source).

Corn comes from the Poaceae food family (source). The Poaceae family is also known as the grass family (source) or Gramineae (source).

Can You Be Allergic to Corn?

Yes, you can definitely be allergic to corn (source). Corn can trigger immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated reactions in children and adults. 

Corn is not one of the top 8 food allergens.

It is possible to have adverse reactions to corn that are not considered a true food allergy or IgE Mediated reaction. Food challenges are sometimes used to determine if a person can tolerate corn. 

We recommend working with a healthcare professional to obtain a proper diagnosis and develop a safety plan, even if you only experience mild symptoms. 

Corn Allergy Symptoms

Corn allergies symptoms can be like other food allergies, and many people may not experience the same symptoms. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and may involve more than one organ system. 

Common food allergy signs and symptoms include the following (source).  

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness 
  • Eczema
  • Fainting
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Itching in the mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of any body part
  • Swelling of the face
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Swelling of the tongue and throat
  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing

Reactions may include one or many reactions, and severity may vary based on the amount eaten and other factors.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can be caused by food allergy or other allergies.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis include (source):

  • Constriction of the airway
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Fast pulse
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Shock including a drastic drop in blood pressure
  • Swollen throat
  • Tightening of the airway

Corn Sensitivity

Some people experience adverse symptoms after eating corn but do not have a diagnosed IgE mediated corn allergy. They may have an immune response that is mediated by other pathways. 

Symptoms may be delayed and may range from mild to severe. 

Corn Intolerance 

Some people have adverse reactions to foods such as corn but have negative IgE Allergy testing results. These reactions are generally referred to as intolerances or sensitivities rather than allergies (source).  


Corn intolerance could also refer to other digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea that occurs after eating corn. This may be due to immune response in the GI tract (source) or due to difficulty breaking down the corn kernels. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup Allergy

People with corn allergy should avoid high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is also associated with fructose malabsorption. This may contribute to asthma (source) and irritable bowel syndrome (source). 

Cross Reactivity of Corn Allergy

Studies have shown grass and corn pollen allergens present the same antigens (source).

There have been some connections between corn with wheat, soy, and rice cross-reactivity. However, it may be hard to determine cross-reactivity between these foods (source). 

Corn is associated with Oral Allergy Syndrome (source).

Corn and Migraine Headaches

Corn is a potential trigger for migraine headaches (source). 

Can A Person With Corn Allergy Eat Meat From Animals That Have Eaten Corn? 

Some people with corn allergy, and other forms of corn intolerance experience adverse reactions when they eat food meat and eggs from animals that have eaten corn.

Clinical studies on this are not readily available. From clinical experience and many patient reports, I have observed that patients who are sensitive to corn or allergic to corn may react to even small amounts of corn derivatives. 

Some people react to meat and chicken wrapped in conventional packaging that may be corn derived. 

Corn Sources:

Some corn foods are easy to identify because they look like corn or have the word corn in the name. 

  • Corn Chips
  • Canned Corn
  • Corn Flakes
  • Corn Flour
  • Corn Fritters 
  • Corn Kernels 
  • Corn Meal
  • Corn Oil
  • Corn on the Cob / Roasting Ears 
  • Corn Starch
  • Corn Sugars
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Tortillas 
  • Fresh Corn 
  • Frozen Corn
  • Parched Corn
  • Popped Corn 

Hidden Sources of Corn

Foods Made From Corn

Lots of foods and ingredients are made from corn but don’t have the word corn in their name. Sometimes these are referred to as “hidden” sources of corn because the food doesn’t look like corn and doesn’t have corn in the name. 

  • Baking Powder
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Fritters
  • Grits
  • Hominy
  • Karo
  • Mazola
  • Mixed Vegetables
  • Succotash
  • Tortilla chips
  • Vegetable Oil
Infographic for Single Ingredient Groceries titled Foods Made From Corn with Images and text for Corn Tortillas, Grits, Corn Oil, Succotash, Corn Bread, Soda

Corn Derivatives

Many foods also have corn or corn derivatives in them as a sweetener or for other reasons. 

  • Baby Food
  • Bagged Salad
  • Chewing Gum
  • Chocolate 
  • Dairy products
  • Dehydrated Soups
  • Distilled Vinegar 
  • Frozen Desserts
  • Fruit Beverages 
  • Gluten Free products that use corn as a replacement for wheat 
  • Gravy
  • Instant Breakfast Foods
  • Instant Tea
  • Jam and Jelly
  • Ketchup
  • Liqueurs
  • Low Calorie Sweeteners
  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pickled Products
  • Pie Filling 
  • Powdered Sugar 
  • Processed Meats
  • Salad Dressing
  • Seasoning Mixes
  • Snack Chips and 
  • Soda
  • Soft Drinks
  • Table Starch
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Wine

Corn Ingredients

These ingredients may be made from corn.

  • Cerelose
  • Citric Acid
  • Dextrose
  • Dyno
  • Food Starch / Modified Food Starch
  • Maltodextrin
  • Natural Flavors
  • Puretose 
  • Sweetose

Corn Products

Corn and corn derived products are used in many other products.

  • Ethanol Based Hand Sanitizer
  • Ethylene Gas (to ripen produce)
  • Glycerine
  • IV Dextrose Solutions
  • Lactic Acid on supermarket meat 
  • Laundry Starch
  • Makeup
  • Medications
  • Processed Foods
  • Skin Care Products
  • Soaps

These sources of corn and corn derivatives are not limited to these categories, but these are the most common items that should be avoided.

Cross contamination

It is best to cook from home where you can avoid any cross contamination with corn containing products.

When eating out, we recommend asking what products are used when cooking and if it is your food will encounter corn or any corn derivatives.

Cross contamination of grains can occur in processing. Reading labels and contacting food manufacturers may be helpful.

Help For Corn Allergy

If you suspect you have adverse reactions to corn, corn pollen, cornstarch, corn oil or any corn products, it is recommended that you contact your physician or allergist to help get an accurate diagnosis. 

Photograph of two ears of corn growing on corn stalks with yellow corn, green husks and blue sky for Single Ingredient Groceries.

Corn Allergy Prevention, Management, Treatment, and Diagnostic Testing 

Avoiding corn, corn products, and corn ingredients is recommended to prevent adverse food reactions and allergic reactions (source).

Work with an Allergist, Registered Dietitian, or a Leap Therapist for help with finding ways to substitute and avoid corn and related products. 

Your healthcare providers may recommend blood tests, skin tests, and an elimination diet to learn about your reactions to corn. Food challenges may also be performed. 

Labeling Laws

In the United States, corn is not considered a top 8 allergen and does not have to be identified on food labels (source).

Corn is sometimes present in foods and listed on the package using vague terms such as “natural flavors” or “food starch.” 

Sometimes calling a food manufacturer can be helpful to determine if corn is present as an ingredient. 

Corn Free Diet 

Corn provides complex carbohydrates, fiber, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and B6. 

A nutritious corn free diet should include a variety of foods and be enjoyable. This helps promote adequate nutrient intake.  

Because corn is such a common ingredient in processed foods, people who follow corn free diets often cook from scratch using whole and unprocessed foods. 

Corn Free condiments and foods may be purchased in specialty stores. Corn free products (such as powdered sugar made with potato starch) may be more readily available around Passover (source). 

Corn Substitutes 

It can be overwhelming to think about all the foods that must be avoided. On the flip side, it can be helpful to list out safe foods that can be substituted for corn.

These foods may be substituted for common corn foods.

Instead of ThisTry This
Corn on the cob, Frozen Corn, Canned CornCassava
Dried Beans
Potato
Quinoa
Rice
Sweet Potato
Yam
Corn Chips, Tortillas, Corn SnacksAlmond Crackers
Banana Chips
Plantain Chips
Rice Cakes
Rice Crackers
Wheat Crackers
Corn FlourCassava Flour
Wheat Flour
Corn OilCanola Oil 
Olive Oil
Peanut Oil
Rice Oil
Safflower Oil
Soy Bean Oil 
Sunflower Oil
Corn StarchArrow Root Starch
Potato Starch
Rice Starch
Corn SyrupAgave Nectar
Brown Rice Syrup
Honey
Maple Syrup
GritsCream of Rice
Cream of Wheat
Oatmeal
Quinoa Hot Cereal

Final Thoughts

If you have a corn allergy, you should avoid any foods or products that contain corn and corn derivatives. Corn ingredients are found in many foods, medications, and household products. 

You can definitely enjoy your life corn-free. Be aware of corn and corn ingredients and take time to find foods and products that are safe for you to use.

Consult with a Doctor, Allergist, Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Specialist, or Certified Leap Therapist specialist to help adjust your diet and lifestyle. This article is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

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Authors

  • Lisa Hugh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Leap Therapist. She has a Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration. As a a Food Sensitivity Expert, her passion is helping people with complex medical and nutrition needs find food and groceries that are safe and enjoyable. Lisa enjoys helping clients in her private practice.

  • Pamela Hawkins is a dietetic intern. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences and a Masters of Science in in Human Clinical Nutrition Integrative Health. She is experienced in the nutrition care of women, infants, and children and is an experienced health coach.

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