Corn Syrup In So Many Foods?

It's almost impossible anymore to pick up an item in the grocery store and not find some form of corn syrup listed among the ingredients. Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, glucose syrup, and fructose are all forms of corn syrup or its derivatives. So why is there corn syrup in so many foods? Is it just a sweetener or does it serve other purposes as well?

Certainly, corn syrup does have some application as a sweetener. Corn syrup consists mainly of glucose, but it is only about 75% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), which is about a 50-50 mix of glucose and fructose. Because corn syrup lacks the full sweetness of sugar, it is often paired with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has a fructose-to-glucose ratio that is almost identical to sugar. Often HFCS is used alone as a sugar substitute.

Answers.com describes the many places you will find corn syrup: "Corn syrup is one of several natural sweeteners derived from corn starch. It is used in a wide variety of food products including cookies, crackers, catsups, cereals, flavored yogurts, ice cream, preserved meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, beers, and many others. It is also used to provide an acceptable taste to sealable envelopes, stamps, and aspirins. One derivative of corn syrup is high fructose corn syrup, which is as sweet as sugar and is often used in soft drinks. Corn syrup may be shipped and used as a thick liquid or it may be dried to form a crystalline powder."

What other roles does corn syrup play besides that of a sweetener? One purpose is as a thickening agent, such as in relishes. Another is as a humectant (moistener), extending the freshness and shelf life of baked goods and other products. Additionally, it does not crystallize as easily as sugar, making it preferable over sugar for frostings and jams. It also helps keep the ice crystals off ice cream and other frozen desserts, makes jam taste fresher, and provides a sweet balance to sour ingredients.

All of these reasons are great for food manufacturers-they are able to manufacture foods that taste fresher, last longer, and are cheaper to make than foods with sugar in them. Why? Because corn is cheaper than sugar in the United States because of government subsidies and tariffs. The U.S. government has placed high tariffs on imported sugar and massively subsidizes the U.S. corn industry.

Many people are quick to blame the current obesity epidemic on the prevalence of corn syrup and HFCS in the American diet. This is in part due to a scientific paper written in 2004 by Barry M. Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and George A. Bray, a professor of medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, which noted a remarkable surge in obesity in Americans that paralleled an increased use of HFCS by food manufacturers. However, in a July 2, 2006 NY Times article entitled "A Sweetener with a Bad Rap" Popkin was quoted as saying "It was a theory meant to spur science, but it's quite possible that it may be found out not to be true. …I don't think there should be a perception that high-fructose corn syrup has caused obesity until we know more."

It is more accurate to say that Americans are consuming much more "sugar" (including corn syrup and HFCS) than a generation ago. Soft drink consumption alone has increased five-fold since 1980, and it is difficult to find a soft drink in America that is not sweetened with HFCS. Most consumers are likely unaware of how much corn syrup they really consume. As Americans continue to cook less at home and eat more prepared food, they are consuming more foods that even a generation ago did not contain any or at least as much corn syrup and HFCS. A manufacturer may add corn syrup to its product for a reason other than sweetening, but the result is still higher amounts of sugar and calories, and that is what fuels obesity.

For a more thorough discussion of the history and manufacturing of corn syrup, see www.answers.com/topic/corn-syrup. Other websites with more information about corn syrup include www.karosyrup.com/faq.asp and www.ochef.com/362.htm. For more information about tariffs and subsidies see www.answers.com/topic/agricultural-subsidy. To read the NY Times article see www.nytimes.com/2006/07/02/business/yourmoney/02syrup.html?ex=1309492800&en=49fdce8d3bd886c5&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Users Reading this article are also interested in:
Top Searches on Sauce Recipes:
Coca Cola Syrup Fountain Soda Syrup
About The Author, Gery Craig
Gery Craig is a successful Agel Business Leader. Agel has created a nutritional supplement revolution by packaging highly effective nutritional in a convenient great tasting gel formula. To learn more visit http://www.whyagel.com.