U.S. use of the sweetener found in most soft drinks, cereals and a range of other products dropped 11 percent between 2003 and 2008, the most recent year figures were available. A number of companies also have stopped using corn syrup in some or all products, including Hunt’s ketchup, Snapple, Gatorade and Starbucks’ baked goods.
Producers blame the decline on a campaign that argues corn syrup is behind rising obesity in the U.S. and that favors sugar over the refined product, although most nutritionists find little difference between the two. They also accuse the sugar industry of pushing a campaign that has helped sugar refining increase about 7 percent from 2003 to 2008.
As of 2008, high fructose corn syrup makers produced an average of 53.1 pounds a year for every American, compared with 65.7 pounds of sugar produced for use in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency doesn’t track consumption.
“I think what we’re seeing is a real awakening of public interest and public consciousness of the food we eat,” said activist Curt Ellis, a producer of the 2004 movie “King Corn” about subsidies that helped corn become a dominant U.S. crop.
Ellis added, though, that he wished Americans would stop eating so many sweeteners, whether refined from corn or sugar.