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Interesting Letter from Heinz re HFCS in Worcestershire

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June 8, 2009

Thank you for your recent email.

As you can imagine, consumer feedback is very important to us, and we appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns about the use of high fructose corn syrup in Heinz products.

Recent media reports have called attention to high fructose corn syrup and its role in the U.S. diet. Many of these articles attempt to link its consumption to obesity.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (December 2008 edition) published their findings from a symposium held by a group of scientific leaders where it was determined that there is no evidence to support the previously held conception that the use of high fructose corn syrup is a major cause of obesity in the United States.

This group, which included several experts who had previously voiced concern over the use of high fructose corn syrup, conceded that there is not an issue with high fructose corn syrup, which is a combination of fructose and a secondary sugar and is metabolized by the body the same as sucrose. However, recent studies of 'fructose' which is compositionally different from 'high fructose corn syrup' have created confusion for the industry and consumers.

We suggest you visit www.sweetsurprise.com for a more in-depth explanation of this most recent study.

Also, as always, it is important to recognize that excess calories from any source can contribute to increased weight in the absence of exercise. It is incorrect to focus on any specific food or ingredient in attempting to address obesity. In moderation, all foods can fit into a healthful, balanced diet.

The Food & Drug Administration's Obesity Working Group released a report whose primary recommendation was 'calorie count.' This recommendation reflects sound science and a wealth of research. This report suggests that instead of focusing on any one food ingredient, the most important message is that, to manage weight, you must balance calories consumed against energy expended. To lose weight, calorie expenditure must be greater than calories consumed.

The good news is, we here at Heinz provide an assortment of food choices for consumers interested in lower calorie alternatives and special diets. Our Weight Watchers Smart Ones frozen food line offers a vast array of entrees, desserts and snacks that are low in calories and fat, but high in taste, to fulfill those dietary needs. And, you will be especially pleased to hear that in our condiment line, we offer Heinz Reduced-Sugar Ketchup (which is sweetened with sucralose), a No Salt-Added Ketchup, and the increasingly popular Heinz Organic Ketchup, which is sweetened only with organic cane sugar.

We are also very excited to announce that growers at the H.J. Heinz research and development farm have developed a new hybrid tomato using traditional breeding techniques which is 5% - 10% sweeter than the Heinz Seed Tomatoes that are currently being used for all Heinz Ketchup. This new breed of naturally sweeter tomato will gradually be phased into the product within the next few years decreasing the amount of sweeteners needed to maintain the delicious taste of Heinz Ketchup.

Once again, we are always glad to hear from our consumers, especially one as loyal to Heinz products as you.

Heinz Consumer Resource Center
Heinzconsumeraffairs@us.hjheinz.com

  1. My incredibly unsophisticated take-away:

    Worcestershire has HFCS? I Did.Not.Know.

    17 Replies
    1. re: shanagain

      Lea and Perrin's Worcestershire had it, now they don't...Heinz and Hunt's ketchup do.

      1. re: rudeboy

        You might look again. A bottle I just purchased has HFCS.
        That is what prompted me to write the letter to Heinz as they own Lea and Perrin's.

        1. re: FoodChic

          Perhaps Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce manufactured for Americans permits more additions than the original product.

          Ingredients on my British bottle: Malt vinegar, spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spice, flavouring.

          Incidentally, what is high fructose corn syrup? I don't think I've ever heard of it. Based on the OP wording, I assume it is a "bad thing"?

          1. re: Harters

            It's is a sweetener (sp?) made from corn.

            1. re: MMRuth

              That sounds disgusting. May I pass, please?

              1. re: Harters

                In the UK I think it's referred to as glucose-fructose syrup. I know it's one of the ingredients in Heinz salad cream.

                1. re: deibu

                  Doesnt seem to be an ingredient in Mrs H's salad cream (can't stand the stuff myself). Ingredients are spirit vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, salt, egg yolks, modified cornflour, stabilisers (guar gum and xanthan gum, colour (riboflavin).

                  But I'll look out for glucose-fructose syrup in other things - a quick nosy on-line suggests its in Coca-Cola, various Kellogs cereals, Ocean Spray cranberry juice, and a few other things (including the cheap end of my usual supermarket's own brand yoghurts)

                  1. re: Harters

                    If you're outside N. America, remember that in the region, "corn" always means maize, not grain. Basic "corn syrup" is glucose syrup elsewhere. HFCS is a common commercial sweetener in US, where cane/beet sugar costs about twice the world price (references below).

                    'Based on the OP wording, I assume [HFCS] is a "bad thing"?' You could say some people assume it's a "bad thing." You may also see, if you view this whole thread, serious and reasoned questions about that assumption. And that even if you granted that the combination of sugars is "bad," there are further issues with a selective concern over minor amounts of it in Worcestershire sauce when the same sugar mix occurs at vastly higher concentrations in fruits (especially dried fruits), and in almost pure form in honey -- foods that ought then logically to be proportionately much more "bad" and command greater concern. Even if you assume for some reason that the sugars are "bad" only when manmade, many products, such as soft drinks, are greater dietary sources of HFCS than Worcestershire by factors of thousands.

                    1. re: Harters

                      There are quotas limiting the use of corn derived sweeteners in the Europe, supposedly to protect German and French sugar beet growers. I'm not sure how that affects their availability in the UK

                      Tate and Lyle (producer of your Golden Syrup) owns one of the larger corn (and corn syrup) processors in the USA (Staley).

              2. re: Harters

                Outside the USA it is often called glucose-fructose or something along that line. Glucose is the simple sugar, which is most commonly produced (commercially) from a starch. In the US, that starch is most likely corn. In Europe they may use other grains. In HFCS, some of the glucose is converted to another simple sugar, fructose.

                HFCS can be blended to have different ratios of glucose and fructose. A 45/55 ratio is supposed to produce a sweetness similar to that of a sugar syrup. Sugar, is sucrose, when can be split into constituent fructose and glucose. The result is often called invert sugar.

                1. re: paulj

                  How do they turn glucose into glucose-fructose syrup? What's the process?

                    1. re: eatzalot

                      I think that I have developed leptin resistance.

                      it's funny - it is sort of a fad to hate HFCS, but there's an anti-fad fad to berate the people who worry about it. Me, I'd rather not perform the experiment.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/con...

                        "Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a fructose-free control or 60% fructose diet for 6 mo and then tested for leptin resistance. "

                        I wonder what's in a fructose-free diet. Do you think they just controlled free fructose, or did they consider how the rat's digestion broke down more complex sugars (starches, sucrose, etc)?

                        I hate to imagine what diet consisting of 60% fructose would be like, even for a rat. Straight HFCS soda would be only a 55% fructose diet.

                        1. re: paulj

                          I noticed that some juice mix bottles now have a prominent 'Contains no HFCS' label. Ingredients instead are headed by 'apple, pear, and/or grape juice concentrate'. I wonder what the fructose content is in the 'fruit' sweeteners. On a calorie equivalent basis, how does the fructose content of these mixes compare with fruit punches using HFCS?

                          I've been avoiding the HFCS fruit punches for years, figuring that if I'm going to buy a juice, I should do so, rather than buying flavored sugar water. But I've also wondered how rational that choice is. For certain juices, cranberry, pomegranate, passion fruit, some sort of sweetening is necessary, whether it is done with a sugar syrup of some sort or a sweet juice concentrate, whether the factory makes the syrup or I make it myself.

                          1. re: paulj

                            Yes, but at least with the sweetening coming from fruit juice concentrate, it's all fructose, not 55 or whatever %, and it's got the added benefit of vitamins from the fruit.

                2. re: Harters

                  Just received my shipment of British L&P Worcestershire Sauce: the third ingredient is HFCS.

          2. It's a strange issue for multiple reasons. Worcestershire sauce (based on anchovy and tamarind, often with hot pepper) isn't normally very sweet, and people don't use much, so it isn't exactly a big dietary component. Ketchups are different, but what's weird there is that until a couple of generations ago ketchups (catsups) were savory preserves of various kinds (onion, walnut, mushroom, lobster ...), without sugar, often made at home. US condiment manufacturers weaned consumers onto a sweet variation made with tomato, and now many people know ketchups as sweet sauces. If you're going to use sweet sauces then of course you're eating sugars. And the recent focus on high-fructose corn syrup as somehow bad is an odd reversal from a few years earlier, because health-food fans long promoted fructose as the "healthier," more natural sugar, and health-food stores sold it in bags, arguing it tastes a bit sweeter (so you need less) and metabolizes slower than the commercially more common sucrose and glucose. All of these sugars are very common in fresh fruits and vegetables, so if you eat fresh fruit you get them in quantity anyway. (Together with many other nutrients and trace ingredients not found in commercial pure sugars or sweet sauces.)

            For anyone interested, McGee's popular reference book ("On Food and Cooking") summarizes many features of the various sugars, and how they're made.

            4 Replies
            1. re: eatzalot

              Umm, there's a huge difference between fructose by itself,or in fruit, and HFCS.....

              1. re: rudeboy

                And there's a big difference between eating refined fructose and fructose in fruit and veggies.

                1. re: Full tummy

                  Thanks Full tummy, I hope I also made that point clear above. And, umm, the comparison was never HFCS vs fructose. It was HFCS vs. more traditional, mainly-glucose, corn syrup (called "glucose syrup" outside US, a point that has come up before). It's strange that people complain, in effect, about the replacement of glucose with fructose (or replacement of sucrose with glucose + fructose, where HFCS replaces cane sugar). Given that until a few years ago, people (maybe even the same people?) long praised fructose as a desirable replacement for sucrose or glucose, on health grounds. I have no horse in this race -- no stake in any of it, I don't use much sugar of any kind, nor sweetened drinks -- but it looks like an interesting study in public moods about nutrition.

                  Honey, by the way, is another (but entirely natural) mainly fructose-glucose syrup very close to industrial HFCS in sugar composition. I hear little clamor against honey as an ingredient. Of course unlike HFCS it's relatively expensive, and has some flavor of its own -- and trace nutrients said to be beneficial in their own right.

                2. re: rudeboy

                  I have a bottle of L&P I bought a couple months ago, and it has HFCS in it.

              2. I think it's a very good response. Talks about how they are addressing current concerns and where they intend to go in the future.

                16 Replies
                1. re: mojoeater

                  My concerns about HFCS have less to do with the nutritional detriments associated with cheap eating (and the 100% increase in type 3 diabetes over the past decade), and more to do with how its increased use in the past 25 years represents the stranglehold agribusiness has on our own domestic policy. ADM et al pressured the gov't to cut sugar imports by 80%, then funnel corporate welfare to farmers to grow corn for HFCS and now ethanol - farmers with adjusted gross income (personal) of less than $750,000/year. So while HFCS on its own does not test to be particularly problematic, its contribution to the national diet has been catastrophic and most directly affects the poor: wealthy corporations diverting our tax dollars to wealthy farmers to negatively impact oue ever increasing lower and working classes.

                  1. re: almansa

                    I'm onboard your train, and would like to add another detail about the evil HFCS: It's a lot cheaper than sugar, allowing, for instance, soda manufacturers to sell giant bottles of their products dirt cheap, encouraging over consumption. In addition, HFCS holds moisture in foods like bread and other baked goods, thereby extending shelf-life. This has led to the appearance of HFCS in things that should not be sweet, such as pizza dough and white bread. The damned stuff is everywhere.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I'm from Canada and am not sure we have the same issue with sugar and HFCS; I haven't compared myself, but other Canadians say we don't have as much of it in products up here. Anyone?

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        Canada and Mexico, all other countries, in fact, haven't had their processed foods overrun by HFCS. It's possible in the U.S. solely because of trade restrictions, as cited by another poster.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Great reason to shop the ethnic markets - even occasionally a good dollar store. (In L.A. ours have plenty of Mexico import items, and from other places that haven't gotten on the HFCS bandwagon.)

                      2. re: pikawicca

                        You are right..it is ubiquitous and pernicious...ruined many soft drinks.

                      3. re: almansa

                        As someone who's allergic to corn & its numerous derivatives, its been interesting to watch how HFCS has now become a bad ingredient that many want to avoid. I have to bite my tongue when I hear one mom discussing with another mom why she's choosing brand A over brand B, as it doesn't have HFCS. Both products are still highly processed conglomerations of little real nutritional value...and both products still have plenty of 'corny' ingredients. ADM & their cohorts started with HFCS three decades ago, as you stated, but now they have spun such a web of countless corn derivatives/by products sold to the American people, they have no idea what they are eating.

                        Did anyone else notice Heinz referred the OP to the sweetsurprise site, which is funding by the Corn Refiners Association? Of course they are going to say HFCS is good/isn't going to hurt us. Didn't the cigarette makers say the same things about their own products a few years back?

                        1. re: anniemax

                          Thanks for pointing the Sweetsurprise.com site. I scolded them over pointing me in the direction of propaganda.

                          I also sent them a link to the recent study finding mercury in HFCS.

                          1. re: anniemax

                            I'm not surprised by that (source of website). You have to expect that sort of thing. And question the validity, otherwise they could direct you to any number of non-affiliated sites, journals, studies confirming their argument...

                          2. re: almansa

                            Are you sure it was ADM (corn processors) who cut sugar imports? What exactly are the sugar restrictions in the US? Are they quotas, or just tariffs? I thought sugar tariffs were there to protect domestic sugar cane growers from lower price imports.

                            As an aside on this, many European countries have quotas on corn syrup products, as a way of protecting their domestic beet sugar growers. I also believe beet sugar technology was developed in France in response to English blockades during the Napoleonic wars.

                            Mexico has a major cane sugar industry, so it shouldn't be surprising that they favor that sweetener. Canada does not have any cane sugar growers, though it does have a modest beet sugar production.

                            Sweetener production, whether from cane, beets, or corn, is a industrial process. It also has a long history of trade and trade protectionism. Colonial New England was part of a trade triangle - with England, Africa, and the West Indies, involving slaves, sugar, molasses, and rum.

                            1. re: paulj

                              Historically U. S. sugar import restrictions were primarily quotas and secondarily tariffs. Prices in the U. S. were substantially above world prices for many years, so the quotas were essentially a form of foreign aid to selected sugar producers. There was quite a scramble to reallocate Cuba's quota once Castro took over. Domestic production of both cane and beet sugar was uncompetitive at world prices, so political clout was involved in several ways. Sugar cane was produced primarily in Florida and Louisiana while sugar beets were produced in a fair number of states with notable acreages in Colorado, California, both Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Add up the number of senators and representatives from these states in the 1950s and 60s. Note that this all goes back well before the process for HFCS was invented. Once HFCS came on the scene, there was additional political support from corn growers. Without artificially high prices for sucrose the market for HFCS would not have been very large.

                              The whole business has produced some conflict for senators from Illinois. Chicago was a major center for the confectionery business until high sugar prices pretty well wiped it out while downstate grows a lot of corn and produces a lot of corn syrup.

                              1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                That raises the question of whether any country has a 'rational' sugar policy, and whether that makes any difference in the consumption habits, and the health of their people.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  I do not pretend to know what a rational sugar policy is. Sugar policy definitely makes a difference in consumption because people respond to price differences. Whether this makes any difference in health is debatable and has been almost ad nauseum. My complaint against corn syrup of all types is that I do not like the taste. Obviously, not every one agrees with me or is at least willing to put up with the taste for lower prices.

                                  Many years ago I substituted sorghum syrup for corn syrup in making a pecan pie and never made another pecan pie using corn syrup. The flavor was a lot better, richer and rounder with no bitter aftertaste. Since then I have substituted sorghum syrup whenever a recipe called for corn syrup as a viscosity modifier. While great for rum balls, this approach would not work in many candies.

                                  1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                    Lyle's Golden Syrup is also a wonderful substitute, as is shagbark hickory syrup.

                                    1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                      But isn't sorghum syrup just as sweetener made from animal feed? :)

                                      According to an attra.nca.org fact sheet, it is made by squeezing the stalks of sweet sorghum, which 'is grown for syrup or forage' (as opposed the grain types). Seed heads go to chickens, the leaves and stalks can be feed to ruminants. The stalks, after squeezing the juice out, can also be fed to livestock.

                                      Come to think of it, the first place I heard about sorghum was on a farm where it was being processed into silage - chopped up and buried in a trench to 'spoil'.

                                      Of course the use of sorghum as a sweetener source is not all that different from using sugar cane. I've even chewed young corn stalks for the sweet juice. I wonder what the mix sugars is in sorghum. That fact that it is left in syrup form suggests that it isn't mostly sucrose.

                                      Producing sorghum syrup was quite wide spread in the American South a century ago, usually on a small scale, something akin to maple syrup production in the NE (sweetener from a tree sap). Its suitability for use in pecan pie is not surprising, though I'm pretty sure the popularity of that pie was carried to the rest of the USA on the backs of corn syrup bottles.

                                      You can learn more about sorghum syrup than you will ever need (unless you plan to produce it) from this Indian research station:
                                      http://www.nariphaltan.org/nari/techn...
                                      Note it is
                                      "
                                      - Honey like taste. Rich in vitamin C, proteins and Nicotinic acid.
                                      - Rich in glucose and fructose
                                      "

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Grain sorghums such as milo produced in the U. S. tend to have short stalks to facilitate harvesting with a combine. Tall grain sorghums are pretty much of a historical thing in the U. S. because they are hard to harvest mechanically although they are the basis of much silage sorghum. Silage sorghum may be sweet or not. The fermentation reactions involved in curing silage require carbohydrates to produce acids. The reactions are not all that different from making sauerkraut from cabbage. Harvesting corn or sorghum for silage is usually done when the grains are somewhere in the dough stage with the leaves and stalks still mostly green. Using sweet sorghum or varieties produced by crossing sweet and tall grain types has the advantage of having higher carbohydrate levels. Sweet sorghum is close enough genetically to sudan grass to allow crossing to produce sweet sudan grass. Sweet sudan is often preferred to regular sudan for green forage or silage for cattle because of the higher energy content with little or no tonnage reduction.

                                        Sorghum syrup is largely a product of small farms. Southern Illinois and Indiana represent the typical northern range for production although there is one grower in Elkhart Lake, WI who sells at some winter farmers' markets in Chicago. The cane cane is crushed and pressed to extract the juice, which is then boiled down to a syrup. The process is similar to producing raw cane syrup, but the flavor of the resulting product is different. Sorghum syrup is the main product. The seeds and stalks are byproducts that can be used as animal feed although the squeezed-out stalks would not retain enough carbohydrates to cure as silage.

                                        If you buy sorghum syrup, look out for mixtures with stuff like cane molasses or other sugars. The flavor could be really different, like the difference between pure maple syrup and maple syrup blends or maple-flavored syrups. Molasses in particular can really dominate the mix.

                          3. Amazon offers a Chinese (!) Worcestershire sauce that is "all natural," which would preclude HFCS. It's the only one I've been able to find.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: pikawicca

                              pikawicca,

                              Just FYI, there's plenty of American products that say "all natural" because HCFS is ultimately a corn product. It's becoming less common, though.

                              Does the chinese version include tamarind and anchovy? As an aside, I've noticed some "high end" worcestershire sauces (like Central Market and Annie's) don't taste right: Annie's has no fish product and it contains corn starch and xanthan gum. I can't find the ingredients for Central Market's, but it's like water - not enough intense flavor.

                              1. re: rudeboy

                                I had the exact same thoughts about CM worcestershire. It was bland and anemic.
                                Glad it wasn't just me.

                            2. anniemax, I share your amazement at a selective focus on HFCS. Many valid concerns are in this thread but their causes transcend HFCS.

                              Data: US/CDN mass-market food producers use HFCS because it costs half what traditional (cane/beet) sugar does. In other countries there's no such incentive, so they still use sugar (from Wiki article below). Sugars have been creeping into "things that should not be sweet, such as pizza dough and white bread" since decades before HFCS, because that's what consumers choose in taste tests, another commercial incentive. From Ketchup (cited above) to breads to salad dressings. The Hesses' classic critique _The Taste of America_ documented this trend in detail -- in the 1970s, before HFCS was present. And since the 1970s I've seen published US per-capita total refined sugar intake rise from around 125 to 145 pounds per year.

                              When people prefer to buy sweet versions of foods that don't need it, and voluntarily consume rising volumes of sugary products, then the consequences have a lot to do with those choices. HFCS might be an easier scapegoat, but I think the current obsession with it distracts from the real and deeper issues.

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HFCS

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: eatzalot

                                eatzalot,

                                I like your arguement points,but you lost me with the wikipedia link. Bad choice for reference.

                                1. re: FoodChic

                                  FoodChic, I cited Wikipedia for the price information and USDA consumption data. What sources do you recommend if you dispute those details, and why? Your response didn't say. Also, you can propose edits to the Wikipedia entry if you have more definitive information.

                                  ETA: One point I skipped was mercury contamination. It's associated with impure materials used in processing some HFCS, and presumably they'll get it out pronto, because toxic contaminants have a chilling effect on consumer buying. In the 1970s I remember the problem was trace sulfuric acid in refined sucrose (the then-current sugar demon). Same basic situation, different details.

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    Wikipedia is not a reliable, or credible, source of information as anyone can go in and make edits without any oversight. That's my issue.

                                    Also, as for the mercury; don't count on the removal of it anytime soon. Food manufactures are not known to modify a process if there is any real cost involved.
                                    I think you give them way too much credit.

                                    1. re: FoodChic

                                      Actually, wikipedia is quite credible. As credible as Encyclopedia Brittanica, in many cases. Of course, there are topics that have endured many inaccuracies, and there are often warnings posted on such pages that citations are needed, or sections need to be improved.

                                      http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2005/1...

                                      Do you have any reason to believe the information eatzalot is referring to is inaccurate?

                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                        I've spent years preparing evidence for court and finding ways to debunk others evidence. Trust me, Wikipeida is inadmissable because of it's credibility issues.

                                        I'd just like to see some credible sources, and not stuff funded by the Corn Growers Association.

                                        1. re: FoodChic

                                          I can see why Wikipedia would be inadmissible in court, but that's why the References section is so helpful: It takes you right to the source, at least some of which would be admissible. Anyway, we're not in court, and there are 53 references on the page eatzalot referred to, and at least a good number of them seem to have no affiliation with the Corn Growers Association. Are those sources not good enough?

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            Yes, many are good sources, I just don't like Wiki it's too easy to paste a Wiki link without fully investigating its sources and where they come from.

                                            Anyway, I think he makes a good point but at the same time if the awareness of the issues of HFCS in our foods lead to other awareness, isn't it all a good thing?

                                            Like milk, for instance, I can't recall seeing a single post about the Bovine Growth Hormone that Monsanto has put in our milk supply. It was tested on rats for 90 before they considered it "safe for human consumption."
                                            But things like that are easy to avoid by purchasing organic products and reading labels, however, a huge portion of the population is ignorant to the bovine hormones. It is consumed by millions daily, and it's in our school lunch programs.

                                            People are becoming aware of HFCS because of the controversy ,and it is in EVERYTHING. It's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. As I originally posted, it's in our most trusted condiments now too. Things that should be free of it are now being infultrated. Items labeled as "natural" contain it. So, the lobby of the corn growers association is making it harder for the public to avoid it.

                                            So if the public generates an awareness to one product is it possible to lead to the awareness of another? I'd hope so, and it would only make us a better and healthier nation to control our food, not have our food controlled for us.

                                          2. re: FoodChic

                                            But is stuff published by some 'HFCS is evil' web page any more credible? I suspect that on this topic, there are more anti-HFCS activists trying to edit the Wiki page than industrial spokemen.

                                            Doesn't Wiki have a record of editing, and discussions about controversial issues? Obviously Wiki is not a final authority on most matters, but I think it is a good source for uncontroversial facts. It also provides an overview of the controversies surrounding certain issues.