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Sep 21, 2011 03:56 PM

Being aware of sugar-coating HFCS

FIRST - this is NOT about whethere you like HFCS or not. If you think it is great ... great. If you hate ... just as good. I hope we don't have that discussion here.

This is about something new I'm seeing.

When I read a label ... let's say ice cream ... I'll see cream, sugrar, etc, etc, etc.

Ok. I thought I was doing due diligence since I don't want HFCS. Many companies have been responding to consumers who don't want it and bringing back the sugar.

However, I'm finding more and more companies are listing sugar first and then further down in the ingredient list ... there's my friend ... HFCS.

BUT ... when this happens they never use the initials ... they write the whole phrase ... high fructose corn syrup.

For me there's an off flavor and an after burn to HFCS.. The first time this happened, when I took a bite of these bionic products, I got that HFCS hit. I re-read the label and found the HFCS buried further down on the list.

Personally, I feel like these companies are trying to trick customers. Others may think not. I can't think of a reason why companies would do this.

Anyway, the real point is to be aware that this is happing and to read the labels completely if you don't want HFCS in your food. If you don't care about HFCS ... nver mind.

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  1. Regulations require food label Ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance according to weight.

    This has been true since the mid 1970's, when ingredient labels were first required.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      Yes, I'm aware of that. However low on the ingredient list, that HFCS is cheaper than sugar and cutting the cost to the company making it. To me it cuts quality and taste.

      The product I lreally 'loved' was the one listing organic can sugar at the top ... and high fructose corn syrup further down. Tell me what that was about?

      1. re: rworange

        Descending order of ingredients.

        There is more sugar, by weight, than whatever the second ingredient is, which is more by weight than the next ingredient, which is more by weight than high fructose corn syrup which is more by weight than the next ingredients. There are no abbreviations on the list, so that everyone will know exactly what is in the product. The ingredients are listed. If you know you are sensitive, then you need to always read the complete list and not stop with the first three predominant ingredients.

        The list is the recipe of the enclosed product, however they made it, after researching it, by taste testing it and finally deciding to manufacture it.

        There is nothing 'hidden' or trying to 'trick' anyone. No business is started with an intention to not have a profit. The recipe is what they decided on would taste good, be affordable and sell at a price point that would still give a profit in the end.

        1. re: Cathy

          Nope. I'm tired of the law game in the market. Did they steal one ounce from this box/can and charge me the same? Do I have to srutinize each and every ingredient. No.

          So I will go there. I believe this is like cutting product size ... a hope that customers are not paying attention. It is an attempt to decieve the consumer.

          Most companies know a good many consumers don't want HFCS so they stick that sugar up top hoping the customers does not notice further down

          Unless anyone can give me a reasonable reason a company would do this other than cutting costs. None of these products have "new improved flavor" blazing on the label.

          I notice. I pay attention. The result will be any ompany doing this (like cutting size) will go on my list to not trust.

          Anyware, as I said, if you agree with motives or not, people should be aware this is happening and do what is right for them.

          Gratuitous extra: The corn industry trying to change the name of HFCS so customers won't know ... corn sugar ... and that is meant as an explicative.

          1. re: rworange

            You never said the product used to have only sugar, cream, vanilla and nothing else and now has sugar, cream, high fructose corn syrup and vanilla. That would be construed as a cost cutter.

            Yes, you do have to read the label. That's why they started the label laws, so that people would know what the ingredients are (hence the caveat of being processed in a facility which also processes nuts, etc. as well as the phenylalanine warnings for phenylketonurics). The label laws now with nutrition values are an extension of that.

            I do notice some products advertising "no high fructose corn syrup" lately, along with 'fat free' and 'gluten free'. But there is no obligation for a company to even do that.

            You can put any company on any list you'd like, but calling them deceitful is incorrect. They are in business and do so to make a profit, usually by cutting costs, either by package size or ingredient suppliers or actual ingredients.

            1. re: Cathy

              Here's a site that says the same thing about companies trying to be deceitful ... and says it better ... it confirmed my suspicions.

              How Food Companies Hide Sugar in Plain Sight


              "Insidious Workarounds

              Unfortunately, a quick glance just isn’t enough any more, because many food companies have caught on to us. They know that we’ve all trained ourselves to scan the ingredients and make sure sugar and high fructose corn syrup aren’t near the top of the list.

              So they’ve arrived at an insidious workaround that subverts our quick glances, and often leads consumers to underestimate the sugar content of a food. How? By using three, four or even five different kinds of sugar in the food, and listing each sweetener separately."

              And it goes on.

              Actually it is the trend I'm seeing. Today I noticed it on Edy's Ice cream which listed sugar, then corn syrup and a few more ingredients then high fructose corn syrup. I never liked Edy's ice cream anyway.

              I like their advice to walk away from products doing this and let the company know why. Even though companies are digging into a new bag of tricks, enouch customers walked away from products with HFCS so that many more upfront companies have totally switched back to sugar.

              Insidious ... not my word ... but so appropriate.

              1. re: rworange

                If you really want to know how much sugar there is in something, don't look at the ingredients, look at the nutritional information.

                Companies have various reasons for using different sweeteners -- among other things, they have different properties when it comes to things like texture. For example one reason HFCS has been added to a lot of baked goods is not so much to make them sweeter as to make them moister and extend shelf life.

            2. re: rworange

              "None of these products have "new improved flavor" blazing on the label."

              "New improved flavor" means we reduced the cost but we managed to make it still taste ok, if different.

      2. I am not sure that HFCS has ever listed on an ingredient list as HFCS. I mean, not everyone would know what HFCS means. But more to the point, somewhere I think I have read that HFCS keeps products moist. So it might be added for that reason--to keep a product from seeming to be stale--along with sugar. Someone here will know if that is the case, I'm sure.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          A 55/45 fructose/glucose ratio HFCS is used in soft drinks to match the sweetness factor of straight sucrose, but bakers prefer to use s 40/60 ratio syrup because the glucose extends the shelf life; that is, it reduces the tendency to go stale. Other syrups like molasses have a similar anti-staling character. Think, for example, of how quickly French bread, without any sugar or other ingredients, goes stale.

          Corn syrup, of the straight glucose variety, is also used in candies because it does not crystalize. A straight sugar syrup crystallizes readily. Invert sugar is a sucrose syrup that is partially broken up, so it is a mix of sucrose, fructose, and glucose. It too resists crystalization, and is popular in English baking (Golden Syrup).

          Outside of the USA, the equivalent of HFCS is called something like fructose-glucose. It may be made from a different starch, such as potato or wheat. But the baking and cooking qualities are the same.

          1. re: sueatmo

            I am not sure that HFCS has ever listed on an ingredient list as HFCS


            1. re: ipsedixit

              Initially I doubted this bit about never using the initials, but when I checked various items in my pantry I couldn't find any. I don't have a lot of HFCS items, but even things like generic pancake syrup, 5 yr old Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup use the full name. I've just gotten so used to equating the full name and the abbreviation, that I didn't notice.

              1. re: paulj

                ... and that's why the title and topic of this entire thread is sort of misleading in and of itself.

                Sort of ironic, no?

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Since I don't buy products with HFCS usually, I don't have anything at home. However, next time I'm at the grocery store I'll fund some. I specifically remember showing my stepdaughters from Guatemala products with EITHER high fructose corn syrup or HFCS on the label ... wanted to show them both ... and telling them not to buy products with that.

          2. >>>BUT ... when this happens they never use the initials ... they write the whole phrase ... high fructose corn syrup. <<<

            I have never once seen the initials used in the ingredient list on a product label. I have always seen the whole phrase used.

            There's no discretion as to the order in which the ingredients are listed, as was pointed out many times above. Are you alleging that they are changing the formula from one that presumably works to one that might not be as good just to tweak the ingredient list on the label so they can fool you?

            9 Replies
            1. re: acgold7

              Yep. That's also what the link I provided in another response says.

              1. re: rworange

                Yes, I read the article, which makes that allegation but offers no evidence that this is what is actually happening. It is an unproven assertion, as is yours. All the various sugars listed are not HFCS. They could not be combined in order to list them higher on the ingredient list even if you wanted them to. They are equally bad for you, no doubt. But if you are on an anti-HFCS jihad, this is the wrong place to look for evil.

                The commenters in that article and on this thread are right... just look at the total carbs and total sugar on the nutrition panel if you want to know whether it's going to kill you or not. There are no secrets there; it's right out in the open.

                The AHA said yesterday you should limit your consumption of ALL added sugars to about 20-25g per day.

                1. re: acgold7

                  I'm only interested in HFCS ... and now ... as a result of this thread ... corn syrup.

                  1. re: rworange

                    But the article wasn't strictly about HFCS or the attempt to hide it. It was about breaking the total sugars into four or five or six different pieces of different kinds, all but one of which were *not* HFCS, so that "Sugar" doesn't appear first on the ingredient list.

                    Either your issue is with HFCS or it isn't.

                    You and many others hate HFCS. Manufacturers are responding by reducing its use and replacing it with other sweeteners and now you are complaining that it is now used less and hence appears lower in the ingredient list. Show me where that makes sense.

                    1. re: acgold7

                      >>> But the article wasn't strictly about HFCS or the attempt to hide it.

                      "Insidious Workarounds" that doesn't say "hide" to you?

                      AGAIN ... do NOT make this about the pros and cons of HFCS.That was the FIRST sentence in this.

                      As stated, I have been fooled by the relabeling. I just wanted others to to be aware and make any decision they want to.

                      Don't try to make a straw man of HFCS.

                      However, even I was surprised by reading about how sugar is now being subdivied on lables so it doesn't rise to the top. That is something I will now be aware of.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Insidious workaround is an allegation and nothing more. No evidence of anything is offered. People can accuse anyone of anything they want on the Internet, without offering anything of substance to back up their charges.

                        All the article did, and all you've done, is note they've reduced the amount of HFCS so it falls to the bottom of the list. No one has offered any proof of motive, and it's just as likely that they've reduced it in response to consumer demand as anything else.

                        And as both the article and my post above made clear, the issue isn't specifically about HFCS, even though you want it to be. The article is entirely about total sugar content and the way they break it up into several different components so they can be listed separately and not have "Sugar" be the first item on the ingredient list.

                        1. re: acgold7

                          This was in respose to the poster who wrote

                          >>> But the article wasn't strictly about HFCS or the attempt to hide it.

                          However you think the article is or isn't slanted, that says to me that they think the comapnies are trying to "hide" something.

                          If I wanted it to be about HFCS, I would not have made the first sentence that it was NOT about HFCS.

                          The point, actually, as many have said is to read the labels. Whatever motives might be assigned to this change ... it is a change. Consumers should be aware of it.

                          I don't think that anyone who objects to HFCS wants less of it in an ingredeient list. They want none. So that is not a good response by a company. All it means is that people need to putll out their reading glasses, if necessary, and make sure there isn't ANY of an objectionable to them ingredient.

                          To me that is either clueless of a comapny ... or sleazy. I suspect the latter. You don't need to agree ... just know to read the lable and go from there

                          1. re: rworange

                            "If I wanted it to be about HFCS, I would not have made the first sentence that it was NOT about HFCS."

                            No, what you actually said in your first post was "this is NOT about whether you like HFCS or not", which is different, because then you said "read the labels completely if you don't want HFCS in your food. If you don't care about HFCS ... nver mind." And you then went on to say: "I'm only interested in HFCS" in a later post so you'll understand if that's what we thought you meant, especially because your thread title said it was about HFCS.

                            The problem here is that with each post you change your point.

                            First your point was that they hid the HFCS at the bottom of the list and were somehow trying to trick you by not using the initials, and when it was pointed out that they never used the initials and were federally mandated to list ingredients proportionately, your argument suddenly changed to being about splitting up the sugars and not being about HFCS at all.

                            Then your point becomes that this insidious non-HFCS issue is a recent change and then that's pointed out as not being a recent thing at all.

                            So now, after you explicitly singled out HFCS, you say we're making HFCS a straw man.

                            l glad we agree that we should all read the labels.

                            1. re: acgold7

                              Please re-read.

                              Posters LOVE to divert threads into other directions, as you are trying to. So I'm not going to explain point by point how YOUR interpretation ... or anyone else's interprestation .. is just a reason to get into the HFCS argument.

                              I don't care about that. Either you are on board with HFCS or not. That is what I said from the first post and repeated a number of times. I don't want it. Others don't care. I am not out to try to vilify it.

                              I am happy your last sentence agrees with the point of this thread. Read lables. They have changed recently.

            2. Here's an easy to understand piece from David Liebovitz on uses of corn syrup for texture, etc.

              The amount incorporated is so small in those cases (vs. when it is used as a sweetener), I doubt that I could pick out the taste. I'm told it's quite common in fancy restaurant-made ice creams for extra gloss and smoothness, lending density.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Ahh... Mr. Leibovitz echoes my sentiments exactly! There are times when a small amount of corn syrup is a chemical "necessity" to achieve a certain texture (marshamallows and some candies for ex.).
                The wholesale replacement of cane sugar with HFCS in a procuct that used to contain cane sugar just to save money is a very different thing. I don't like the taste of HFCS and avoid it as much as possible.

                1. re: iluvcookies

                  Exactly, And I'm not talking about corn syrup, but HFCS. They are different.

                  There's a lot of things I don't particularily like about corn syrup, but I recognize where it needs to be used ... though the fact that most of the world doesn't use it ... well.

                  One thing I did learn from that article is that regular corn syrup these days uses HFCS.

                  Would I notice a teaspoon of either? I don't think so either.

                  However, most products have more than that. As I said, I bought some products listing sugar at the top and didn't read further down. It was the taste and what I'm now recognizing as a burning sensation that sent me back to the label.

                  1. re: rworange

                    "One thing I did learn from that article is that regular corn syrup these days uses HFCS."

                    The Lebovitz article makes it clear that HFCS is made from corn syrup, not the other way around. However, if you look at some bottles of 'corn syrup' on the grocery shelf, you will see HFCS listed as an ingredient. That's something that has been added to the consumer product, in order to tweak the flavor (make it a little sweeter?). Some also have added vanilla flavor. But if a manufacturer lists 'corn syrup' in their ingredient list, I think it save to assume that it is the plain, glucose, form, not a mix. The HFCS, if any, will be listed separately (check the cheap Golden Griddle pancake syrup next you shop at Grocery Outlet).

                    1. re: paulj

                      At least they use vanilla and not vaniilin ... another ingredient I look for because I don't like the taste of the latter.

                      I'm not a corn syrup fan in general and since I don't cook much, I think the last bottled I had was about 2002 ... and I used it once about five years prior for some recipe that caught my eye. But should I ever need it it is good to know to check the ingredient list on even that. Sheesh.

              2. "Personally I feel like these companies are trying to trick consumers." How exactly are consumers being tricked? Anyone can read the label to see the ingredients and the nutritional information. The ingredient listing contains all ingredients used, even trace ingredients, and the sugar carbohydrates are clearly listed on the nutritional information part of the label, as required by FDA regulations. Shame on those nasty corporations for following FDA regs, and "hiding" the ingredients "in plain sight" as the article you referenced mentions. How dare they!

                As pointed out by Melanie Wong, companies have various reasons for using different sugars, one among them being cost, and HFCS is a lower cost sweetener. But it is highly doubtful that companies use HFCS in order to trick consumers. If you don't wish to consume HFCS (and I don't) it is easily avoidable. Please don't blame the food manufacturers for your own failure.

                6 Replies
                1. re: janniecooks

                  janniecooks..... You are 100% correct; I guess many/some people want life to be "risk free", hmmm.... it isn't!! It is more about personal responsibility than "Tricking Consumers.

                  1. re: janniecooks

                    >>> But it is highly doubtful that companies use HFCS in order to trick consumers

                    And what exactly are you basing that on? The perceived kindness of big business?

                    If you don't want to rely on the report on some blog, how about the government rejecting the corn industry's attempt to change the name of HFCS? WHat would that be but trying to trick consumers?

                    Going back to sugar in general, this post on the general board shows how difficult it is to find sugar these days.


                    The poster wrote (since people don't follow links usually)

                    "I was trying to determine whether a certain juice drink (from GO) contained added sugar. Here's the ingredient list. NOTE: The line breaks are the same as on the label, although the label has both left and right margin alignment. The whole list occupies a space 1 1/8 inch wide by 1 1/4 inch tall. (I need to wear different glasses for reading up close, which I didn't have that day).



                    (FILTERED WATER, APPLE AND GRAPE



                    CONCENTRATE (FILTERED WATER,

                    (CRANBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE),



                    LACTATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C).

                    MALTODEXTRIN, VITAMIN D3


                    I missed the added sugar (in line 5 among the 12 lines). The item is really really sweet, something I was trying to avoid, but missed because of how the sugar got "buried" in the ingredients list."

                    The same happens since companies start breaking down sugar and high fructose corn syrup gets burried in an endless ingredient list.

                    Now multiply this buy a basketful of grocery items. Seriosuly ... are you reading this on each and every item ... seriously? Do I need a speed reading course to get out of the market in a day?

                    I read the labels. I find I'm buying more products with ingredients I don't want when I look at them again a home and find I somehow didnt find Wally in the croweded ingredient list.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I don't think you're wrong to be on the lookout for added sugar. It is a problem. But the fact that the word "sugar" is in the fifth line where it is, isn't the problem. We all have a responsibility to read all the words.

                      What gets to me is when they trumpet "100% Real Juice -- No Sugar Added" on the front and then you see all the concentrates added on the back, which are basically pure sugar syrups. That, to me, borders on trickery. Not any of this other stuff.

                      The whole issue of changing the name to "corn sugar" is yet another completely different issue and unrelated to your original post. At the moment there is no credible scientific evidence that the body processes HFCS any differently than it processes Honey, to which it is chemically and physically identical, and which is only 2% higher in fructose than table sugar. It is all equally poisonous.

                      1. re: acgold7

                        What is related to the OP is that I stated that the issue of HFCS being good or bad is not the point of this thread. There are way too many discussions and it will throw the thread off topic.

                        I will say that it is the consumer's responsibility to be somewhat educatied that white grape juice or apple juice MIGHT be the equevalent of sugar. However, based on how people digest that information, it is up to them if they want to buy products sweetened by that. To me, I prefer juice sweeteners to sugar, corn syrup, etc, etc, etc ... there is some added vitamins and minerals.

                        Again this isn't about that.

                      2. re: rworange

                        That was my post.

                        This is reminding me of foodstuff from China. I was avoiding food labelled "Product of China", until I read that some Chinese producers ship their food elsewhere in Asia for final processing, so they don't have to say "Product of China". So now I just avoid all food labelled as product of any Asian country.

                        All this gaming from food producers is helping to push me to buying only grains, fresh vegetables and raw meat, and less and less processed food, when I go shopping in the grocery stores. While it's better for my health anyway, I doubt this is what they really intended. But whatever. They're the ones who outsmarted themselves.

                        1. re: dump123456789

                          Interesting to know. Thanks. I had been only avoiding food identified as having come from China. I will widen my list of products not to buy. .