Press Releases

HMF, Honeybees and HFCS


August 27, 2009

CONTACT: Audrae Erickson
(202) 331-1634

WASHINGTON, DC – The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) today challenged the relevance and accuracy of the results of a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry asserting that high fructose corn syrup, when heated to certain temperatures, forms a substance toxic to honeybees known as Hydroxymethylfurfural or HMF.

“First and foremost, consumers should know that high fructose corn syrup is a safe ingredient,” said Audrae Erickson, President, Corn Refiners Association. “Our members have numerous safety measures in place and follow best practices for producing quality ingredients. High fructose corn syrup has been used safely in the food supply for humans and honeybees for decades.”

There are several relevant points concerning colony collapse disorder (CCD) and HMF that should be taken into account:

HMF has been found in all sweetener syrups, including honey and invert sugar.

The case for HMF (from any syrup source) as an explanation for widespread CCD in honeybees is dubious, given the highly unusual conditions — extreme storage temperatures, prolonged storage times or non-standard storage containers — required to generate potentially harmful levels of HMF.

In a recent paper published by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on CCD, the authors list compromised immune response, specific pathogens, and pesticide exposure, but not high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners in the food supply, as the leading explanations for CCD. This research suggests rather that virus-induced ribosomal RNA degradation is the most likely cause of CCD.1

Furthermore, Janzowski concluded that even at high dietary levels, HMF does not pose a serious health risk, finding no detectable DNA damage to cells in vitro, to primary rat hepatocytes or to primary human colon cells.2

High fructose corn syrup has a strong history as a safe ingredient recognized by food manufacturers and the U.S. government. In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed high fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996.3

The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.”4

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” The ADA also noted that “High fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.”5

For more information about high fructose corn syrup, please visit

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CRA is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, starch, oil and other products from corn.

1. Johnson RM, Evans JD, Robinson GE, Berenbaum MR. 2009. Changes in transcript abundance relating to colony collapse disorder in honey bees (Apis mellifera). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:14790-14795.

2. Janzowski C, Glaab V, Samimi E, Schlatter J, Eisenbrand G. 2000. 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural: assessment of mutagenicity, DNA-damaging potential and reactivity toward cellular glutathione. Food Chem Toxicol 38:801-809.

3. 61 Fed. Reg. 43447 (August 23, 1996), 21 C.F.R. 184.1866. Direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe; High Fructose Corn Syrup – Final Rule.

4. American Medical Association. 2008. Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health a-08.

5. American Dietetic Association. 2008. Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.”

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