August 31, 2009

Heat forms toxic substance in corn syrups

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say they've discovered heat forms a potentially harmful substance in high-fructose corn syrup often fed to honey bees.

The study led by Blaise LeBlanc and Gillian Eggleston of the USDA's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson showed heat can produce a potentially toxic substance, hydroxymethylfurfural, which might kill honeybees and endanger human health.

High-fructose corn syrup is fed to honey bees to increase reproduction and honey production, but it's also used as a sweetener in some soft drinks and various other human foods, the researchers said.

LeBlanc and Eggleston said that when exposed to high temperatures, the corn syrup can form the toxic substance and might be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease that has killed at least one-third of the U.S. honeybee population.

The scientists measured levels of the toxic substance in high-fructose corn syrup products from different manufacturers during a period of 35 days at different temperatures. As temperatures rose, levels of hydroxymethylfurfural increased, jumping substantially at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The data are important for commercial beekeepers, for manufacturers of (high-frutose corn syrup) and for purposes of food storage. Because (corn syrup) is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods, the data from this study are important for human health as well, the researchers said.

The study appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.