Since the mid ‘˜70’s, the genetically engineered sweetener called high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, has crept into virtually every type of processed food we purchase from the grocery store — from soft drinks, to breads, salad dressings and cereal, to lunch meats, and yogurt. Unless you diligently consume a strictly organic diet, it is almost impossible to avoid consuming HFCS.
The underlying reason food manufacturers switched from using pure cane sugar back in the ‘˜70’s to HFCS was profit — sugar tariffs and sugar quotas imposed by the government in 1977 significantly increased the cost of imported sugar so U.S. producers began looking for cheaper sources.
If you are reading this article, you, like many other Americans, have probably developed a concern over the safety of ingesting HFCS. Some of this concern has no doubt been sparked by recent studies that have come into the public’s awareness linking HFCS to numerous health hazards such as obesity, fatty liver disease, and even cardiovascular disease. Many of these studies point to a connection between HFCS and certain health problems, but many still remain inconclusive. There was even one study conducted that strongly links HFCS to mercury poisoning. That’s right, the complex enzymatic process of turning corn into HFCS appears to create measurable amounts of toxic mercury in the end product, but scientists haven’t yet figured out how it happens. Scientific studies take time, and, in the scheme of things, HFCS is still a relatively “new” food product.
Most of the studies that have been performed on HFCS are documented on the Wikipedia website — its ingredients, its production, and how much, or how little, other countries use it. Some of the reports are quite shocking.
Not only is HFCS present in so many U.S. products, but it’s frequently the first ingredient listed on food labels. Typically ingredients on food labels are listed in order of quantity — if the first ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup, then the product has more of that than anything else, and so on. Recently when I went to the store to purchase some barbeque sauce I was shocked to discover that not only was HFCS listed as the first ingredient on the label of most popular brands of barbeque sauce, but I could find only one brand that did not contain any HFCS at all, which was Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce. The following brands all listed HFCS as one of their first ingredients: Famous Dave’s, Open Pit, KC Masterpiece, Jack Daniel’s Original No. 7 Recipe, Sweet Baby Rays, Kraft Original, Heinz 57. Budweiser barbeque sauce listed HFCS as its fifth ingredient. As an FYI, I happen to have two bottles of two different Tastefully Simple barbeque sauces in my refrigerator and neither of them lists HFCS as an ingredient.
Fortunately, we all have a choice about what foods, genetically engineered or otherwise, we put into our bodies. Until the final verdict is reached on this omnipresent franken-sweetener, which could be a long time, whenever I see high fructose corn syrup listed anywhere on a food label, I’ll be choosing to place it back on the shelf.