Study questions safety of UV-treated, HFCS-sweetened juices

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags High fructose corn High-fructose corn syrup

Scientists have questioned the safety of UV-treated fruit juices containing high fructose syrup (HFCS) in a newly published study.

Writing in Food Chemistry​, scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology sought to evaluate the safety of fruit juices that have been subjected to ultra violet light (UV-C) disinfection.

Suspected carcinogen

They were particularly concerned that UV-treatment of juices containing HFCS may lead to the formation of furan – a volatile aromatic compound and suspected carcinogen.

A previous study indicating that furan formation during UV-treatment arose from fructose, and not from glucose or sucrose, sparked the concern about the use of HFCS as an additive.

To further explore these findings, the scientists examined specially prepared juices containing different sugars and two real commercial juices – an apple juice and an apple cider.

Fructose and HFCS

In line with the conclusions of the previous study, the Illinois scientists found that fructose is the main constituent of fruit juice that is responsible for furan formation.

In simulated juices prepared using HFCS, the scientists recorded significant levels of furan although the results varied significantly depending on the pH.

The researchers found that furan formation was promoted at acidic pH and suppressed in the presence of ascorbic acid.

In conclusion, the scientists said: “Inclusion of HFCS in fruit juice induces formation of furan upon exposure to UV-C radiation and, as a result, HFCS is not a safe additive.”

Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, claimed that this conclusion is misleading and unnecessarily alarmist.

Erickson told “The authors completely ignored the realities of sweetener science: any caloric sweetener substituted for high fructose corn syrup in a sweetened fruit juice would likely produce comparable levels of furans, including the two simple sugars found in apple juice and apple cider.

“Furans can be formed in a multitude of heat processed food products– many of which do not contain high fructose corn syrup.”

In addition, Erickson questioned whether the study even refers to a drink that consumers would ever buy. She said fruit juices in the US contain only juice and that the simulated juices prepared with HFCS in the study simply do not reflect what is on the market.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST) at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Source: Food Chemistry
122 (2010) 937–942
Furan formation during UV-treatment of fruit juices
Authors: Mahesh Bule, Kiran Desai, Brian Parisi, Satish Parulekar, Peter Slade, Rekha Singhal, Alfredo Rodriguez

Related topics Regulation & safety Juice drinks

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