With the liberalisation of the European sugar market planned for 2017, the EU can expect to see a dramatic increase in obesity and diabetes, a researcher has warned.
High fructose corn syrup is widely used in the US, as it is cheaper than beet and cane sugar, is sweeter, and also easier to work with. The use of high fructose corn syrup has so far been limited in the EU due to quotas.
“This is really bad,” Per Bendix Jeppesen, who is a researcher on obesity and diabetes at Århus University, told Danish broadcaster DR. “It’s well-known that this has led to a genuine obesity epidemic in the US since it was introduced. We have tested it on rats, and this type of sugar increases the risk of getting fatty liver disease and diabetes,” Jeppesen said.
The researcher expects that in the future, the industry in Europe will use high fructose corn syrup in food production. “Why wouldn’t they? It is after all both cheaper and easier,” he said.
According to the researcher, the problem with it is that corn syrup primarily consists of a particularly dangerous fructose called monosaccharides which has already been degraded. Therefore, it goes straight into the blood, and though high fructose corn syrup today can be found in small limits in cakes, it can become very dangerous, if for example, it used in beverages where the liquid is consumed in large amounts, the researcher claimed.
In 2017, the EU Common Organisation of the Market will bring an end to sugar production quotas by country, and market price support, which allows European producers to sell their unsold stock at a minimum price guaranteed by the EU.
The current system was called into question in 2006, when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) restricted European sugar exports, after a complaint from several producing countries accusing the EU of dumping.
To end these restrictions, the EU announced it would reform the sugar industry in 2015, but then postponed it to 2017.
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The Danish Diabetes Association called on the EU to put “the foot on the brakes instead of the speeder” on sugar quotas and to make thorough research before setting high fructose corn syrup free.
Christel Shaldemose, an MEP from the Socialists and Democrats and member of the Parliament’s Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), said that she until now has been unaware of high fructose corn syrup.
“If the researcher is right, then this is really worrying. The last thing the EU needs is more people with diabetes,” the MEP said. She added that she will ask the European Commission if it is aware of high fructose syrup and how it is planning to deal with it.
EURACTIV sought a reaction from FoodDrinkEurope, but the industry association declined to comment.