Consumer advocate group Citizens for Health, has named high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) the no. 1 food additive to avoid for this year's "Read Your Labels Day." The annual event held each April 11 was created to help American families get the "411" on what's in packaged foods and beverages, and the controversial industrial sweetener was identified as the worst labeled ingredient on the non-profit group's Food Identity Theft Website.
Although the FDA's safety evaluation of HFCS relied on an "exposure estimate" of "HFCS containing 55 percent fructose," recent tests of popular beverages published by researchers at the University of Southern California showed "the fructose-to-glucose ratio of the drinks containing HFCS as the exclusive source of fructose revealed that the percentage of fructose was nearly always higher than 55 percent, with a mean of 59 percent. . . . [T]he three most popular soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Pepsi) contained 64 to 65 percent fructose." The FDA has noted that "additional data on the effects of fructose consumption that is not balanced with glucose consumption would be needed" to ensure safety of high fructose-to-glucose ratio. Food labels tell consumers none of this, making HFCS the worst labeled food additive.
It matters because doctors warn families about fructose. Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona said in a prepared statement that high fructose corn syrup is, "One of the very worst culprits in the diet." Yet food companies continue using excessive amounts of HFCS because it's easily used in manufacturing and cheaper than real sugar. Major brands put it in hundreds of processed foods including breads, yogurts, salad dressings, breakfast cereals, condiments, energy drinks, crackers, children's vitamins and even Girl Scout cookies.
High fructose corn syrup is also used to sweeten over 90 percent of so-called "sugary" sodas sold in the U.S., now the single largest source of calories in the American diet as reported by ABC News. "But when you read the label on a can of Coke, it contains no sugar. The sweetener is all High Fructose Corn Syrup," said Jim Turner of Citizens for Health.
Per capita consumption of real sugar made from cane or beets has actually decreased since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the 1970's. "Per capita, Americans consume the same amount of real sugar today as they did in 1909, while we've watched diabetes and obesity rates skyrocket. Many wonder if HFCS plays a role," added Turner. "They might want to avoid HFCS until the questions about it are answered."