Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW

Who’s benefiting from corn syrup drop?

Gregory Warner Jun 2, 2010

Who’s benefiting from corn syrup drop?

Gregory Warner Jun 2, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Even if you’re not big on reading food labels, you know high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener has gotten a lot of bad publicity as nutrition talk has turned to the obesity epidemic. Today comes news from the Department of Agriculture that production of high-fructose corn syrup has been falling for the past several years. We are not getting any thinner as a population. So, what’s up?

From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia Gregory Warner reports.

Gregory Warner: The smell of desperation seemed to waft out of the high-fructose camp last year, when the Corn Refiners Association launched a series of television ads to defend their product.

Woman: That it’s made from corn, has the same calories as sugar and honey and it’s fine in moderation.

A lot of moderation, apparently. Production of the ubiquitous sweetener dropped 11 percent between 2003 and 2008. Audrae Erickson is with the Corn Refiners Association.

Audrae Erickson: Consumers are consuming more bottled water, they’re consuming more diet drinks. In that case, they’re not consuming sugar or our sugar made from corn, high-fructose corn syrup.

But while the use of corn syrup fell, use of refined sugar rose by 7 percent. Products like Hunt’s Ketchup and Gatorade have loudly switched over to sugar. Even soda companies, which pioneered the use of high-fructose corn syrup, are testing sugar-sweetened versions.

Jeff Sakson is with Participant Media, which produced “Food, Inc.,” a movie about processed food. He says the trend away from high fructose is a victory for popular media.

Jeff Sakson: When you hear the same thing over and over again, or the same question raised? Eventually, people start to pay attention to this.

Claudia Polsky is an environmental lawyer in California who works on food labeling. She credits nutrition labeling laws.

Claudia Polsky: I mean, you could have 50 articles about the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup, and if nobody can figure out what product it’s in, it’s not going to affect them. I mean nobody’s going to go to a de-formulation lab to take apart a bag of Hi-Ho’s.

Analysts say more products with high-fructose corn syrup are showing up overseas.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.