High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) — also called glucose-fructose syrup in the UK, and glucose/fructose in Canada — comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. In the United States, consumer foods and products typically use high-fructose corn syrup as a Sweetener. In the United States, it has become very common in processed foods and beverages, including breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments.
The most widely used varieties of high-fructose corn syrup are: HFCS 55 (mostly used in soft drinks), approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose; and HFCS 42 (used in many foods and baked goods), approximately 42% fructose and 53% glucose. HFCS-90, approximately 90% fructose and 10% glucose, is used in small quantities for specialty applications, but primarily is used to blend with HFCS 42 to make HFCS 55.
In the U.S., HFCS is among the sweeteners that have primarily replaced sucrose (table sugar). Factors for this include governmental production quotas of domestic sugar, subsidies of U.S. corn, and an import tariff on foreign sugar; all of which combine to raise the price of sucrose to levels above those of the rest of the world, making HFCS less costly for many sweetener applications. Critics of the extensive use of HFCS in food sweetening argue that the highly processed substance is more harmful to humans than regular sugar, contributing to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions, and that in some foods HFCS may be a source of mercury, a known neurotoxin. The Corn Refiners Association disputes these claims and maintains that HFCS is comparable to table sugar. Studies by The American Medical Association suggest "it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose" but call for further independent research on the subject. HFCS was classified as generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1976.
HFCS has begun to replace sugar in various processed foods in the United States. The main reasons for this switch are:
• Per relative sweetness, HFCS 55 is comparable to table sugar (sucrose), a disaccharide of fructose and glucose.
• High-fructose corn syrup HFCS 90 is sweeter than sucrose; HFCS 42 is less sweet than sucrose.
• HFCS is somewhat cheaper in the United States as a result of a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and quotas. Since the mid 1990s, the United States federal government has subsidized corn growers by $40 billion.
• HFCS is easier to blend and transport because it is a liquid.