Food activists have gone wild lately over the supposed dangers of high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks. The current round of hysteria was sparked by a University of Southern California study (published in late October), alleging that the corn sugar in several brands of soda seemed to contain as much as 65 percent fructose, a significantly higher level than the 55 percent it’s supposed to have. We were skeptical from the get-go about the researchers’ methodology, however, and new scientific findings from the International Society of Beverage Technologists demonstrate that the USC research was indeed deeply flawed:
The technologists group said those results didn’t make sense and had tests run by the same lab that did work for the USC researchers. The group said it had 12 samples tested using a method used by the USC scientists as well as another method established by the group. The group says its testing showed that the USC procedure didn’t account for all of the sugars in the sweetener and inflated the amount of fructose.
Translation: The USC researchers didn’t measure any sugars other than glucose and fructose. But as the ISBT researchers explain:
It is well known and part of the Code of Federal Regulations for HFCS syrups that glucose and fructose make up only 92 to 95 percent of the total sugar composition. The remaining 5 to 8 percent of the sugars present are maltose and higher sugars.
By omitting these other sugars, the USC group artificially inflated the percentage of fructose that was present in their samples. Using the same laboratory, however, ISBT found that when maltose and other trace sugars are properly identified in corn sugar, the fructose concentration is about what you’d expect: 55.9 percent. The same testing found maltose levels of about 4.2 percent — a substantial amount that the USC researchers overlooked.
And what of the “65 percent” fructose figure that the media has been tossing around? It looks like a mistake. Even when the ISBT scientists looked only for fructose and glucose (like the USC group did), they couldn’t replicate that result.
The Center for Consumer Freedom has been on this for a while now. Back on October 26, we e-mailed USC's Dr. Michael Goran (the first study’s “corresponding researcher”) and asked if he considered redoing the test because he found no maltose. Goran e-mailed us back:
I did not consider any re-runs based on the non detectable maltose as we were not really expecting to see maltose in the drinks. Why would you expect to see maltose – is that a typical ingredient in HFCS…?
Goran later claimed in an e-mail that his team “didn’t see any detectable maltose and we didn’t look for ‘higher sugars’.”
We’ve been saying for years that there's no meaningful nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and table sugar. We hate to say we told you so, so instead we'll just crack open a soda.