Why Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Banned in Europe?

Many people have misconceptions about regulations concerning high fructose corn syrup in the European Union, or EU. Contrary to common opinion, high fructose corn syrup isn't banned in Europe. Referred to as isoglucose or glucose-fructose syrup in this region, use of high fructose corn syrup is restricted because it's under a production quota.

Young people enjoying sodas and snacks. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Regulations Not About Health

The production quota for high fructose corn syrup is intended to ensure fair agricultural/economic development across all territories in the EU and is not related to the health concerns many public health authorities have regarding the proliferation of high fructose corn syrup in the food supply. The EU quota was first established in 2005, then amended in 2007, and further amended in 2011. The 2011 alteration was to allow for the production of more high fructose corn syrup, as current demand in the EU outpaces supply.

Quota Reduced To Meet Demand

Though, as in the U.S., there is debate in the EU about the role of high fructose corn syrup in the spreading obesity epidemic, production quotas on the product were eased in 2011 "in order to improve the sector's efficiency and competitiveness." Those sectors are the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup sectors, according to a 2010 report of the European Commission on Common Agricultural Policy.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Worldwide

In the U.S., consumption of high fructose corn syrup increased dramatically from 1970 to the present day, with a 1,000 percent increase from 1970 to 1990 alone, according to "Consumer Reports." The product is found in many beverages, including nearly all non-diet soda brands, as well as breakfast cereals, salad dressings, cheese spreads, yogurts, jams, peanut butter and other foods. A study published in 2009 by multiple high-level researchers from the U.S., Europe, New Zealand and Australia in "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" specifically mentioned high fructose corn syrup as contributing to worldwide obesity. Though the product has not been found to be significantly worse for the body than sugar in current research, its lower relative cost to sugar and its use in so many different products, which makes avoiding its consumption challenging, has led some authorities to question whether it should be regulated differently than other sweeteners.

A Piecemeal Response To Regulation

In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that schools should not offer soda because of its high corn syrup content. Since that time, numerous districts have followed that advice. Ultimately high fructose corn syrup, as the researchers in the 2009 "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" study report, is part of a larger set of issues which together contribute to obesity. Environmental factors such as a lack of physical activity, coupled with powerful food marketing tactics, means each city, state, nation and region has to determine what regulations work best to keep their populations healthy. At the moment, this does not include bans on high fructose corn syrup in any country or region.

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