High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener derived from corn. It was invented by Richard Marshall and Earl Kooi in 1957, but it wasn’t until Dr. Y. Takasaki created an process for industrial production between 1965 and 1970 that it began being used. HFCS is popular with food and beverage manufacturers because it is far cheaper than other sweeteners. It is widely used in the United States, where it has replaced sugar in many processed foods. It’s use is somewhat controversial and critics of HFCS suggest that it may have a variety of negative health effects. This has led to a high profile public relations campaign to reassure the public about the safety of the sweetener. Let’s take a look at how HFCS is made.
How is high-fructose corn syrup made?
The first step in the production of HFCS is milling the corn to produce corn starch. In the next step the corn starch is treated with the enzyme alpha-amylase and then the mixture is treated with another enzyme called glucoamylase to produce corn syrup. This corn syrup is made up of mostly glucose. At the next stage the corn syrup is treated with xylose isomerase (also called glucose isomerase), which converts the glucose into 42% fructose and about 50% glucose. After this step the product is known as HFCS 42. Some of this mixture is then purified to create HFCS 90, which contains 90% fructose. This is then added to the HFCS 42 until the fructose level reaches 55%, which creates the final product known as HFCS 55.
Did you know?
Glucoamylase, the second enzyme used in the process, is produced in a fermentation vat by a species of mold known as Aspergillus.
High-fructose corn syrup is also known by many other names including; glucose-fructose syrup, glucose/fructose and high-fructose maize syrup. There are plans to change the name to corn sugar.