High fructose corn syrup is a low-cost sweetener that replaced sugar in thousands of products over the past 30 years. In 1970, Americans consumed less than a pound of the syrup per year. In 2010, the average American consumed over 60 pounds per year, according to research from Princeton University. Manufacturers started reducing use of the product in the late 2000s because of concerns that it contains mercury and has led to record levels of obesity, according to The New York Times. Still, a check of many food labels shows the ingredient remains a staple.
Many baked goods, including English muffins, rolls and white and whole wheat bread, contain high fructose corn syrup. The syrup helps baked goods achieve a brown crust and retain moisture.
Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup and barbecue sauces typically contain high fructose corn syrup, which is used to balance the tart tomatoes and bring out the flavors of herbs and spices.
Soft drinks use high amounts of the syrup as a source of intense sweetness. It also helps stabilize flavors over the long shelf-life of the drinks. Diet soft drinks do not usually contain the syrup.
Some breakfast cereals, particularly sweetened ones, contain high fructose corn syrup. Cereals aimed at adults also often contain the syrup even if they don't taste especially sugary.
Fruit drinks often contain high levels of the syrup. It is used in bottled juices, drink pouches and frozen concentrates. High fructose corn syrup has a lower freezing temperature than other sweeteners, and that makes thawing faster.
Processed foods such as lunch meats, dinner sausage, macaroni and cheese, boxed meals, packaged lunch meals and other processed foods contain the syrup because it is inexpensive and provides a long shelf life.
In an effort reduce calories from oil, many salad-dressing manufactures add high fructose corn syrup instead. Low-fat and low-calorie dressings tend to have higher levels of the syrup than dressings made with olive or another kind of oil.
Many yogurt brands contain the sweetener. Even flavors or yogurt lines that are called "all natural" and "organic" sometimes contain high fructose corn syrup.
Many liquid cough suppressants and expectorants contain high fructose corn syrup. Flavored varieties designed to taste better for children tend to have higher amounts of the sweetener.