A difference between the US and the UK is the plethora of corn grown in the US. Corn is eaten in the UK, but on a much smaller scale. A common corn based product in the US, high fructose corn syrup, is very rarely used in the UK. In the US, on the other hand, high fructose corn syrup is in so, so many products. It is the primary cheap sweetener. It is in all major brands of soda i.e. Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Sprite, etc. unless otherwise specified with words like ‘throwback’, ‘original’ or ‘hecho en mexico’. It is also in many sauces and syrups like ketchup, barbecue sauce, chocolate sauce, horseradish sauce, apple sauce and blueberry syrup. It is found less less frequently in the creamy ones. For instance, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and Kraft Rich and Bold Thousand Island dressing are both free of HFCS. Many types of desserts contain HFCS, for instance, all oreos appear to. As we discussed earlier, American bread often contains sugar. Much of it also contains HFCS. We had switched to sugar free bread months ago, but our burger buns turned out to contain HFCS.
Apparently HFCS peaked in use in the 90s. It is waning in popularity now. If anything, even Mcdonalds have recently removed it from their buns. This is because it has been suggested that if may be less healthy than normal cane sugar, which of course, is hardly brilliantly healthy as it is. Either way, it is still in an amazing amount of products.
Chris doesn’t even really like corn on the cob, so he had basically consumed no corn before moving to the US. He had some sleep problems in the last few months. We thought they might be moving related stress, but I think the root may have been mainly too much corn, and more than that, too much highly processed corn. We have decided to get rid of all the HFCS in our house as we hardly want him developed an allergy from sudden overexposure to something that will probably be impossible to entirely avoid given it is just everywhere.
It’s not just in unexpected foods in the form of a syrup, but also as an oil. Chris felt a bit ill every time he ate American potato chips and it turned out that Lays have corn oil in them. British crisps, even near identical ones like Walkers salt and vinegar vs. Lays salt and vinegar taste different and I think the corn oil is the difference. Chris said it made them greasier.
I am not that into crisps. I don’t dislike them, but I rarely crave them. From time to time I will have Walkers prawn cocktail from the UK, but I tried Lays for the first time properly in probably at least 7 or 8 years a few weeks ago and I felt unwell for several hours after. I am not sure about this corn oil. Crisps, again, were unhealthy enough as it was with the other oils. They didn’t need to be made ultra greasy with cheap corn oil. I don’t think I’ll be having Lays again either and we’ll both definitely be laying off the HFCS.
Here is a video of the disposal and our search for HFCS free sauces:
In our search, we discovered the best way to avoid it without having to read the full ingredients was to look for the word organic or go upmarket. For instance, we ended up buying organic jam and the Whole Foods version of oreos. That said, there are some non-organic, cheaper options. For instance, Heinz has two non-HFCS ketchup options, organic but also ‘Simply Heinz’. Kraft actually sell several barbecue sauces sweetened with sugar and molasses rather than HFCS. It’s not even the main advertising point of it, so reading the ingredients was necessary to confirm.
The same was true of burger buns. Chris had taken up a liking of potato buns. We had been buying Aunt Hattie’s potato buns, which contains HFCS. It turned out Safeway’s own brand of potato buns is free of HFCS even though the vast majority of their own brand breads are not. Again, this was not marketed as being free of HFCS; it just happened to be.
Given Chris literally lost sleep over all the extra processed corn and it didn’t seem to be doing me any favors either, I am hoping this is a minor difference that will go. If Mcdonalds are even getting rid of it, I hope that it will be the start of seeing more ‘Simply X’ and less high fructose corn syrup and corn oil.
This is the first time I’ve ever had to write a correction. The paragraph above mentioning Safeway potato buns turned out to be untrue. For the rest of the story, click here for part two.