These Popular Foods Unexpectedly Contain High Fructose Corn Syrup


Oct. 13 2023, Published 3:56 p.m. ET

Heinz ketchup on a store shelf.
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • High fructose corn syrup is a cheaper alternative to sugar.
  • Surprisingly, high fructose corn syrup is in more foods than you might think.
  • There are no nationwide bans on high fructose corn syrup, despite what some think.
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If you’re a label reader, you’ll find that many foods use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar or other sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch that, when broken down, turns into a 100 percent glucose corn syrup. Enzymes are then added to the corn syrup to convert some of the glucose into fructose, or fruit sugar, per the FDA.

Sounds harmless, but studies have found a link between added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and obesity. According to Healthline, consumption of foods with high fructose corn syrup has been linked to other health issues such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, inflammation, heart disease, and even cancer.

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7Up pop at a grocery store.
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These foods contain high fructose corn syrup.

Here is a list of brand-name foods that usually contain high fructose corn syrup:

  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup

  • Skippy Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

  • Del Monte Canned Peaches

  • Oscar Mayer Smoked Lean White Turkey

  • Paula Dean salad dressings

  • Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juice (usually called “fruit drink” if it contains more HFSC than actual juice)

  • Del Monte Mexican Stewed Canned Tomatoes

  • Wonderbread

  • Heinz Relish

  • Ritz Original Crackers

  • Honey Bunches of Oats breakfast cereal

  • Progresso Light canned Vegetable Barley Soup

  • Hunt's Pasta Sauce

  • Chef Boyardee Mac & Cheese

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  • A1 Steak Sauce

  • McDonald's Apple Pie

  • Yoplait Yogurt

  • Mountain Dew

  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

  • Mott's applesauce

  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal

  • Maruchan Ramen Noodles

  • Myoplex Deluxe Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein bar

  • Smuckers Fruit Preserves

  • Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

  • Pearl Milling's (Aunt Jemima) pancake syrup

  • Moose Tracks Ice Cream

  • Quaker Chewy Granola Bars

  • Kroger Mild Viva Salsa.

Is high fructose corn syrup banned in Europe or anywhere else?

Although many people believe that high fructose corn syrup is banned in European countries, that is a misconception. While the European Union (EU) has put some restrictions on the production of high fructose corn syrup, those restrictions have loosened over the years.

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According to Livestrong, production quotas on high fructose corn syrup were implemented to ensure fair agriculture practices, not because of any possible health concerns over its use. In 2011, those quotas were loosened to increase high fructose corn syrup production to meet demand.

High fructose is used in many of the foods we consume, primarily because it is less expensive to use than regular sugar. While it's not surprising for things like soda pop and candy to contain high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener can also be found in food items you wouldn’t expect, like spaghetti sauces, salad dressings, and crackers.

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Paula Deen salad dressings.
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Peanut butters and jellies at the grocery store.
Source: Getty Images
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How to avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup:

The best way to avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup is to read the labels on everything you buy. You wouldn’t think spaghetti sauce would have any type of sweeteners in them, but they do. Also, you may have switched to wheat bread or pasta, thinking it was better for you, but those may also contain high fructose corn syrup.

It doesn’t appear that any restrictions will be put on using high fructose corn syrup in the U.S. anytime soon. The FDA said that while it recommends people “limit their consumption of all added sugars,” it has not seen evidence that high fructose corn syrup has a “difference in safety” than other sweeteners.

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