Corn: the hidden Allergen in your Food and Drink (and Where to Find it)

When I wrote last year on how a maize allergy almost killed my wife, it was just the beginning of her journey. Since then she (we) have had to check every single item of food and drink that she has consumed and have often been shocked how often the cheap bulking agent corn is used by manufacturers. Eating out is often impossible or restricts here to a basic chicken breast and salad meal, and a buffet or fast food is an absolute impossibility.

For those who don’t know, corn is a common name for maize. It’s used mainly as a bulking agent or thickener in food and drinks and has recently become widely favoured as a cheaper alternative to wheat and barley due to its low cost.


Corn ‘hidden’ in foods

As time as gone on, we’ve discovered just how common corn is, and it seems that the more food that comes from the USA to the UK, the more prevalent stuffing foods with maize has become. From Haribo sweets to lager, corn is so prevalent that eating is often a minefield.


Corn is often used to make fried foods crisper

Corn (in particular cornflour) is being used more frequently in kitchens to help make fried food more crispy. Sweet potato chips, for example, are often tossed in cornflour being being fried. This makes eating out very difficult for people who suffer from a corn allergy.

In addition, companies such a McDonald’s and KFC use corn products in some of their food but sadly don’t make this information available publicly on their website (making it impossible for someone who has a maize allergy to even thing about tucking in to a greasy bucket).


Corn is now featured in some food oils

As pressure is placed on food manufacturers to look for ‘healthier’ plant-based fats, corn is increasingly being added to frying oil. This means that it’s almost impossible to eat anything cooked in oil unless you can be 100% certain of the ingrediatns of the oil. If it doesn’t say, stay away!


Cornflour is the most common thickener for sauces and soups

Check the ingredients of a sauce or soup and there’s a high probability that it will contain cornflour, use to thicken the product and bulk it up.

Even foods labelled as ‘breaded’ can contain corn

During the summer my wife and I rushed home from the shops to get ready for one of our favourite activities, watching Formula One. She quickly made herself a ham and tomato sandwich and we sat down to watch the race. A couple of minutes later my wife suddenly jumped up and ran to the kitchen because she’d forgotten to check the ingrediatns of the ham. Sure enough, the breaded ham contained corn in the ingredients. Panicking, she got her epipen ready and downed some prescription antihistamines. She only had one small mouthful of the ham but even that was enough to give her mild effects. Thankfully she didn’t go into full anaphylaxis on this occasion but it was a close shave.


Corn starch

Corn starch is the starch extracted from corn, obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. You’ll find this used where a thickener is required, usually in soups and sauces. It’s also the same stuff that children use to make ‘Oobleck’ (a non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid that does not follow Newton’s Law of Viscosity).


Modified Maize Starch

Modified Maize Starch is similar to corn startch, however, it has been chemically treated. It’s used as a thickener, but also a stabilizer or emulsifier.


Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn (maize) and contains varying amounts of maltose and higher oligosaccharides depending on the grade. It’s used in as a thickener, sweetener and to keep some foods fresher for longer. Find it in processed foods, sweets, soft drinks and even fruit drinks.


Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum is a thickener and binder which can be produced using different ingredient, but which has been produced more recently using corn. Anyone with a corn allergy should try to avoid Xanthan Gum (although some people with corn allergies find they can tolerate it in small amounts).


Quality foods are often safest

Generally (but not always), quality food items tend to be the safest foods for those with a corn allergy to eat. This is because they higher quality the food, the less change there is that it’s been bulked up with corn starch or corn products.


Corn is even used in lager

Some lagers have maize in them, which some brewers use to adjust the flavour of the beer, meaning that those people allergic to corn need to steer clear of any lager unless the ingredients are explicitly listed.


Allergy -v- Intolerance

One of the biggest drivers for the turn towards using corn is that millions of people claim to have a gluten allergy, which has resulted in manufacturers and restaurants turning to corn as a gluten free alternative. The reality is that many of those people who claim to have a gluten allergy have never had this confirmed by a professional. It’s actually more likely that they have an intolerance, rather than an allergy. This means that the real number of people suffering a gluten allergy is actually lower than numbers would suggest.

Sadly, this means that corn is becoming more prevalent in foodstuffs which is slowly reducing the number of products Corn Allergy sufferers can eat.


Corn should be a recognised top allergen

Currently there are 14 regulated allergins on the Food Standards Authority list. It’s time corn was added to this list before someone is killed. The current 14 allergens are:

  • eggs
  • milk
  • fish
  • crustaceans (for example crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, prawn)
  • molluscs (for example mussels, oysters, squid)
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts (namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts)
  • sesame seeds
  • cereals containing gluten (namely wheat (such as spelt, Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley, oats, or their hybridised strains).
  • soya
  • celery and celeriac
  • mustard
  • lupin
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentration of more than ten parts per million)


Remember this when avoiding corn:

If it doesn’t say, stay away!


BBC Panorama’s ‘A Prescription for Murder’ was a Grossly Irresponsible program

As someone who takes the SSRI Citalopram for anxiety and mild depression (and whose family has a history of mental health problems including manic depression and bipolar) I was absolutely furious after watching BBC Panorama’s ‘A Prescription for Murder’. The program focused on the case of murderer James Holmes who killed multiple people in a theatre in Colorado in July 2012, and attempted to link the murders to SSRI’s.

The program asked the question “Is it possible that a pill prescribed by your doctor can turn you into a killer?” which had already sowed the seed for paranoia over a medicine which has helped transform the lives on millions of mental health patients. It then attempted to make a spurious link between Holmes being prescribed the SSRI sertraline and carrying out the premeditated murders of 24 people (along with being charged for 140 counts of attempted murder).


What is an SSRI?

SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors; a form of medicine used to treat major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. It’s not exactly known how they work, but it is known that SSRI’s increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.


Why ‘A Prescription for Murder’ was a Grossly Irresponsible program

During the program, we learned about some of James Holmes’s background. We learned how he had been a shy individual at school with some problems with socialising. We also learned that Holmes had suffered from some paranoid thoughts as a child (yet received no psychiatric help).

However, we weren’t told that Holmes attempted to commit suicide at 11 years of age. We also weren’t given any in-depth information into how his parents treated him as a child or told about the apparently strong religious beliefs of him and his parents (they followed a form of Protestant Christianity called Lutheranism) and the program may little attempt to delve into the fact that Holmes has been thinking about killing people for over a decade.

We were also introduced to expert witness Professor David Healy, professor of psychiatry at Bangor University, a man who is well documented as being anti the pharmaceutical industry. He told the program: “I believe, if he hadn’t taken the sertraline, he wouldn’t have murdered anyone” yet the program provided no evidence to support his claim or explain how he had come to this opinion.

The program makers of A Prescription for Murder were clearly cherry-picking information as it began to build to the finale; an apparent timeline linking Holmes’ being prescribed sertraline, consequent withdrawal, and the theatre murders. The program makers failed to make it clear that Holmes was clearly a ticking time bomb. They also failed to acknowledge that Holmes was a troubled man who was very likely to commit such an offence regardless of an SSRI. It seemed something worthy of a Daily Mail journalist.

A Prescription for Murder was cherry-picking information as it began to build to the finale; an apparent timeline linking Holmes’ being prescribed sertraline, consequent withdrawal, and the theatre murders.

The program was based on nothing but assumptions and while it did make a disclaimer that people already taking SSRI’s should continue, there’s no doubt that the program will make people already suffering from anxiety even more anxious.

SSRI’s help millions of people have a relatively ‘normal’ life. They helped me. They’ve helped members of my family. And while all SSRI’s have some side affects those side affects as minimal and often worth coping with to feel better.

To try and link a handful of murders to SSRI’s in such a factitious way – when so many millions of people take them around the World with little problem – is morally inept and down right irresponsible.



Ingrown Toenail – living with the ugliest toes in the world

ingrown toenail post surgery

My ingrown toenail saga left me with some of the the ugliest toes in the world.

After playing rugby from the age of 11 and having my feet stamped on various times I eventually ended up with ingrown toenails. This would eventually become infected despite my best attempts to keep them clean. The red, swollen skin surrounding the toenail became angry red and eventually turned into a puss-pumping, stinking mess. Gross.

Not only did they look and smell terrible, but they were also very painful to walk with. At times I could feel the nail cutting into the infected flesh at the sides of my toe.

The first attempt at fixing one of the ingrown toenails was at my local GP surgery. It was a time when doctors still carried out minor procedures at their surgeries and after injecting me with anesthetic in both sides of the toe 14 times (which was extremely painful), the doctor placed an elastic tourniquet around my toe and sliced along the edges of the toenail. He then pulled out the offending nails either side and burned the nail-bed with some sort of acid. The release of pain was instant.

Sadly, the toenail would later grow back – wonky and also grow upwards from my toe!




Would you pay £10 to see a GP?

Would you pay £10 to see a GP?

Front-line NHS services are struggling and seeing a doctor is more difficult than ever, so would you pay £10 to see a GP?

This is just one of the many suggestions that has been put forward recently in an attempt to reduce pressure of vital front line NHS resources and raise money for the underfunded service.

Many people are understandably against paying £10 to see a GP. After all, when the NHS was created it was supposed to be free at the point of delivery. However, others already pay to see a dentist and some experts are arguing that people who are better off should pay for basic services.

Means tested NHS

The problem with asking those who ‘can afford it’ to pay to see a GP is that society begins to slide down a slippery slope of means testing use of the NHS. This could be an expensive and bureaucratic process for a service already under pressure from existing rules and regulations.

A free NHS is something to be proud of

Expecting people to pay £10 to see a GP means that the privatisation of the NHS would have commenced and it would open the floodgates for more areas to be privatised.

Our NHS must remain free – it’s the world leading example in how free healthcare should be.

Give tax breaks to those who pay for private healthcare

The lucky amongst us can afford to pay for private healthcare. Of course, the more people who pay for private healthcare the less stress their is on the NHS.

However, private healthcare is very expensive. Perhaps one answer would be to offer some sort of tax relief for those people who pay for their own healthcare? Private healthcare is already exempt from VAT but perhaps it would be more useful to offer another incentive.

Something needs to be done

The fact is that many NHS services in the UK are under pressure and something needs to be done to protect it. It is becoming increasingly common for people to say that they are unable to see a GP and A&E departments across the UK are complaining that they simply can’t cope with the pressure.

Perhaps asking people to pay £10 to see their GP would deter the time-wasters (no need to go to the doctor if you have a cold), whilst at the same time help increase funding for the NHS and recruit more trained staff.


Lidl Bakery food allergy advice and ingredients

Recently, a new Lidl opened in Colchester. It’s an impressive store for a ‘budget’ supermarket, and also boasts of flash new bakery. The problem is that the bakery staff can’t confirm any ingredients in their foods which might cause allergies. Since my wife has a serious corn allergy, it’s really important that we know what’s in the baked goods.

I couldn’t find the information I needed on the Lidl website but they were quite helpful and sent me a pdf containing all the current ingredients and allergies which is available in the attachment below.

Note: this is only relevant to the Colchester store and is subject to change at any time.


Common Medical Terms related to Personal Injury

A few years ago, I was involved in putting together some Common Medical Terms related to Personal Injury for a company which specialised in legal claims. The company is no longer trading, so I decided to put the glossary of terms here for you to use. Feel free to duplicate it on your own website but please provide a credit (with a link back).


Accelerated Injury

An injury brought forward by a number of months/years a symptom which would have developed in the absence of the injury



A condition which starts and ends quickly. A long- lasting condition is termed chronic.



A painkiller



A pain killer which as reduces inflammation



The fusion of a joint



Asbestos is a group of minerals with long, thin fibrous crystals. It is recognised that exposure to asbestos can have carcinogenic effects to the human body, especially the lungs.



Free of symptoms



Natural hollows in fibrous tissues lined by smooth cells and containing fluid. Situated at points where there is a pressure or friction. They try to allow fee movement without straining tissue.



Inflammation of bursa ( e.g. housemaid’s knee)



Relating to the hand, the bones of the hand



Relating to the neck part of the spine


Closed head injury (CHI)

The result of rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head during which the brain bounces off the inside of the skull


Colles’ Fracture

Fracture across the lower end of the radius (in the wrist)


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a short-term psychological treatment. CBT helps to change the way you think, feel and behave. CBT is particularly suitable for specific problems such as phobias, panic attacks, eating disorders and depression.



A bruise



The cushion of cartilage between two vertebrae.



The displacement of a bone at a joint.



Relating to the back.



A pre-existing symptom made worse by the injury.



The straightening of a limb/joint.



The thigh bone



The smaller of the two bones in the lower leg



The bending of a joint.



A break, normally of a bone.


Golfer’s elbow

Inflammation of the medial epicondyle of the tendon at the elbow. ‘Tennis elbow’ is inflammation of the lateral epicondyle.



A localised collection of blood, a bruise.



The bone in the upper arm


Illness Behaviour

The development of symptoms resulting from unconscious exaggeration by the patient. This is thought by most doctors to be far more common than deliberate malingering; also known as functional overlay. Psychosomatic pain or compensation neurosis. The last is used for a condition that is expected to resolve after the conclusion of a claim.



A response to injury denoted by the suffix ‘itis’. The cardinal signs are redness, heat, swelling and pain.


Kirschner wire

A wire or rod passed through bone and used to apply traction.


Kuntscher nail

A strong steel nail that is inserted into the hollow canal of the femur or tibia to maintain position after fracture.



Hump in the vertebrae. In mild form can cause neck to lean forward and hunch.



A cut.



Relating to a ligament which is band of fibrous tissue connecting bones or cartilages.



Relating to the lower back.



The deliberate pretending of symptoms or exaggerating them for advantage.



The failure of bones properly align after fracture resulting in deformity.



The procedure whereby a joint is moved to reduce or eliminate stiffness.



Semi–lunar cartilage as in wrist or knee joints.


MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

A detailed form of imaging without using radiation which can detect detailed soft tissue changes.



Pain felt in sensory nerve which can be as a result of injury to the nerve.



Disease involving joint cartilage.



Loss of bony tissue causing bones to become brittle and liable to fracture.



The knee cap.



A finger bone/bones.



The falling down or sinking of (a disc).



Post traumatic stress disorder – specific mental disorders following an accident or trauma


Pleural plaques

Localised areas of scar tissue attaching to the outer wall of the lung and are totally benign.



One of the two bones in the lower arm



The process of restoration of skills by a person who has had an illness or injury so as to regain maximum self-sufficiency and function in a normal or as near normal manner as possible. For example, rehabilitation after a stroke may help the patient walk again and speak clearly again.



The movement of the neck when turning the head left and right.


Soft tissue

Parts of the body other than bones – usually muscles, ligaments etc.



A degenerative condition of the spine.


Sprains and strains

A collective term for muscle and ligament injuries.



A partial dislocation



Relating to the foot, bones of the foot.



Relating to the chest area as in thoracic spine.



The larger of the two bones in the lower leg.






Breach on surface of skin or membrane.



One of the two bones in the lower arm.


Vagus nerve

The nerve that supplies nerve fibers to the throat, larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), lungs, heart, esophagus, and the intestinal tract as far as the transverse portion of the colon. The vagus nerve also brings sensory information back to the brain from the ear, tongue, pharynx, and larynx.


One of the 23 bones of the spine.



A soft tissue injury to the cervical spine (neck).


YAG laser surgery

The use of a YAG (yttrium-aluminum-garnet) laser to carry out eye surgery.


Zygomatic bone

Part of the temporal bone of the skull that forms the the cheek. The zygomatic bone is also known as the ‘zygomatic arch’.


Frontal lobotomy conducted using ECT (video)

frontal labotomy

A video has emerged on Youtube showing the graphic detail of a person receiving a frontal lobotomy.

The footage, shot in black and white and appearing to be from c.1960 shows a female patient receiving Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT) to force unconsciousness, followed by a procedure which includes entering the frontal lobe from above the eyelid to remove “most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex”.

This procedure for frontal lobotomy was used in the UK and USA for a number of years and believed to be able to cure mental illnesses.

WARNING: This video is quite graphic. It’s definitely not for the squeamish.


Sudden Corn Allergy Almost Killed My Wife

Sudden Corn Allergy

My wife had eaten maize products all of her life, until one day I arrived home to hear her vomiting in the bathroom due to what we would later discover was a sudden maize allergy (also known as a corn allergy). She’d eaten some chips and dip and within an hour or so was being sick. She had stomach cramp, and a headache. We put it down to a touch or food poisoning or a bug and the next day she went off to work.

However, things began to become a bit weird a couple of days later when she ate some Doritos. Once again, the sickness returned, more severe this time, and she went straight to bed. We guessed she was probably suffering from a wheat allergy and so she bought some wheat free pasta for dinner the following evening. This would turn out to be a big mistake.


She had developed a sudden maize allergy, not a wheat allergy

Within an hour of eating wheat free pasta, my wife began to be violently sick. She was complaining of a severe headache and said the pain in her stomach was “unbearable”. I knew this was in a lot of pain, as she never complains. She didn’t even make a fuss when she gave birth to our children, and I knew something was wrong. I got her into bed, gave her some paracetamol and tried to make her feel better… but things went from bad to worse.


Swelling and hives appeared within a matter of minutes

Maize allergy
The maize allergy caused hundreds of painful hives all over her body and made her hands and throat swell up (click the image to enlarge it)

Whilst I was sitting with my wife I noticed that she was suddenly beginning to come up with hives all over her body and they were appearing right before my eyes. Within 2 minutes she started complaining that her hands were “burning” and then her hands and face began to swell. Within 10 minutes she was complaining that her neck felt so swollen that she didn’t think she could breath properly. I’m a trained First Aider and I knew what was happening; she was having a severe allergic reaction. It was time to seek emergency medical attention.


She felt like she was going to “die”

It was now an hour into the severe symptoms and my wife was getting worse. She was in a lot of pain and said he thought she was going to die. This might sound dramatic to you, but trust me when I say she was in a bad way. Thank God for the National Heath Service! Within 30 minutes my with was being seen at the local surgery by an out of hours doctor. The doctor immediately administered a number of very strong antihistamines and monitor my wife. Thankfully, within a couple of hours the swelling had subsided and she was beginning to feel better and the GP suspected she was suffering from a maize allergy. The doctor said that left untreated, she could have stopped breathing!

The next day

The next day, she was completely drained. The shock to her system had drained her of energy and I insisted she stay in bed (despite her still trying to go to her teaching job). In hindsight she was grateful as she admitted she wouldn’t have been able to work in the state was in.


Getting a diagnoses of the corn allergy

It turns our that manufacturers of wheat free products often use corn as a substitute for wheat. We quickly realised that it was, in fact, the corn which was causing the allergy and not wheat.

The doctor took some bloods and there were sent away for analysis. 10 days later and the confirmation came – my wife had developed a sudden corn allergy in her mid 30s.

In fact, the maize allergy was so severe that the doctor was very clear: if this happens again were must call for an ambulance as the reaction will get worse each time and she could end up in anaphylaxis shock from the corn allergy causing a serious allergic reaction in her body. It could kill her.

It’s worth noting that this allergy is generally called a maize allergy in the UK, but also called a corn allergy in other parts of the world such as the USA.


The future

Going forward, corn products are a complete no. No more Chinese takeaways, no more corn crisps, and many foods completely off the menu for the rest of her life. She now has to carry an EpiPen (a type of adrenaline auto-injector which will help her if she goes into shock again) and eating out is almost impossible as there is no regulation which says that manufacturers have to label corn in their foods.

So don’t be fooled into thinking a sudden corn allergy could be a wheat intolerance: get tested for a maize allergy – it might just save your life.


Pauline Cafferkey: the Nursing and Midwifery Council should give her a break

Pauline Cafferkey

Pauline CafferkeyPauline Cafferkey gave up her time to save lives, fighting against a barely understood disease, Ebola. Then, after a 20 hour shift was flown home to the UK.

Pauline Cafferkey arrived home, knackered, in a “busy, disorganised and even chaotic” airport and then the wrong number gets recorded on her notes by someone else. She then almost dies from the disease, which tried to take her life another two times afterwards and now her name is being dragged though the mud. That’s what you get for being a caring person.

Why would Pauline Cafferkey deliberately hide her illness and put lives at risk in the UK after savings lives in Sierra Leone? That just doesn’t make any sense.

She was sick. She wasn’t thinking clearly. They, on the other hand, should veered on the side of caution, and treated her as a patient the moment they found out her temperature on the high side. Instead, in all the chaos, they recorded it as lower, and allowed her through. She shouldn’t be blamed for any perceived misdoings.



Kidney Stones and how to prevent them – my experience

Kidney Stones
My kidney stones

Kidney stones can be a real surprise. On Friday I woke up feeling fine, got showered, had some breakfast and went to work. At about 9.30 I had the sudden urge to pee so off I went to the loo and what happened next can only be explained as the feeling that someone had taken a blowtorch to my stomach – intense pain from inside my abdomen.

The pain lasted most of the day and I kept drinking water and cranberry juice in a bid to stave off any impending infection. Over the next 24 hours the pain seem to subside to a dull ache – despite me having the regular need to pee – so I went out for my Father-in-Law’s 60th birthday party. On arrival at the pub I was presented with a pint of beer and this continued for the rest of the evening. This would later become a process I would regret entering in to.

I woke up on Sunday morning and something didn’t feel right. My lower-left back was throbbing with pain, I felt sick and my groin was painful. I also felt very light headed and I knew it wasn’t a hangover. As the day went on the pain became worse. I had some Paramol (the strongest painkiller available without a prescription) but this wasn’t helping. By late afternoon I was getting to the verge of tears with the pain and my wife insisted I go to the local Walk-In centre.

Two hours later the pain had subsided (I found walking around helped) but I was seen by a doctor and explained that I thought I was suffering from a UTI. It was at the point the GP explained that men very rarely get a UTI and if they do there’s usually something else causing it. He took a sample of my urine, dipped in a special test strip, and informed me that I didn’t have an infection.

Much to my concern, there was a trace of blood in my urine. Needless to say I was instantly worried, however, the GP assured me that it was a very minor trace nothing at the point to be concerned about. His diagnoses? Kidney stones. I don’t drink enough water and this is likely to have been the cause. All that alcohol had only dehydrated me even more and the trace of blood was likely being caused by the stone causing minute tears as it made its way through me. Nice!

Off I was sent with a prescription for a decent painkiller and Naproxen anti-inflammatory, told to see my GP, and went back home to rest. The new drugs helped and I managed a decent nights sleep. I took the next day off work to recover and clean my system; drinking loads of water, eating fruit an veg, avoiding anything unnatural and anything containing caffeine.

It was later that day, whilst going for a pee, that something odd happened. I felt the flow of my pee stop and go for just half a second and heard a faint ‘ping’ from the toilet bowl. When I looked down there was a small stone in the bowl. It had come from me!

In my excitement I fished it out with an old pair of grips and gave it a thorough wash. And there it was!

What you can do to prevent kidney stones

Although some people are more prone to kidney stone than others, there are some things that we can all do to prevent them occuring:

  • drink plenty of fluids. in particular water (2l a day)
  • avoid caffeine – a diuretic which will dehydrate you even more (this includes tea!)
  • lose weight
  • become a woman (men are twice as likely to suffer from kidney stones)
  • exercise regurlay
  • eat lemons (or lemon juice) and other fruits high in citric acid
  • drink apple cider vinegar

How to alleviate kidney stone pain

  • take pain killers
  • drink plenty of water to flush your system
  • don’t consume alcohol
  • rest

Download my free hydration chart and put it in your bathroom (including at work) to make sure you stay well hydrated and avoid kidney stones.