Corn Syrup


Corn syrup is one of several natural sweeteners derived from corn starch. It is used in a wide variety of food products including cookies, crackers, catsups, cereals, flavored yogurts, ice cream, preserved meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, beers, and many others. It is also used to provide an acceptable taste to sealable envelopes, stamps, and aspirins. One derivative of corn syrup is high fructose corn syrup, which is as sweet as sugar and is often used in soft drinks. Corn syrup may be shipped and used as a thick liquid or it may be dried to form a crystalline powder.

The use of corn as a food product dates to about 4000 B.C. when it was grown near what is now Oaxaca in Mexico. Because of its natural hardiness, corn was successfully cultivated by people in much of the Western Hemisphere. It was imported to Spain from the West Indies in about 1520 A.D. and soon became a popular food throughout Europe.

As the use of corn as a food product spread, various machines were developed to help process it. Water-powered mills, which had been used to grind wheat and other grains for thousands of years, were adapted to grind dried corn. By the early 1700s, a device to shell corn—remove the dried corn kernels from the cob—had been patented. The refining process used to separate corn starch from corn kernels is called the wet milling process. It was patented by Orlando Jones in 1841, and Thomas Kingsford established the first commercial wet milling plant in the United States in 1842.

The process for converting starches into sugars was first developed in Japan in the 800s using arrowroot. In 1811, the Russian chemist G.S.C. Kirchoff rediscovered this process when he heated potato starch in a weak solution of sulfuric acid to produce several starch-derived sweeteners, including dextrose. In the United States, this acid conversion method was adapted to corn starch in the mid-1800s and the first corn sweeteners were produced in a plant in Buffalo, New York, in 1866. This process remained the principal source of corn syrup until 1967, when the enzyme conversion method for producing high fructose corn syrup was commercialized. At first, this was a batch process requiring several days. In 1972, a continuous enzyme conversion process was developed that reduced the time to several minutes or hours.

Today, corn syrups are an important part of many products. In 1996, there were 28 corn-refining plants in the United States that processed a total of about 72 billion lb (33 billion kg) of corn. Of that amount, about 25 billion lb (11.4 billion kg) were converted into corn syrups and other corn sweeteners. These corn-based products supplied more than 55% of the nutritive sweetener market in the United States.

Raw Materials

There are several thousand varieties of corn, but the variety known as yellow #2 dent corn is the primary source of corn syrup. It is a common variety grown in the Midwestern portion of the United States and elsewhere in the world. It belongs to a family of corn that derive their name from the small dent in the end of every kernel.

Other materials used during the process of converting corn to corn syrup include sulfur

Corn Syrup
dioxide, hydrochloric acid or various enzymes, and water.

The Manufacturing

Corn syrup is produced in processing plants known as wet corn mills. In addition to corn syrup, these mills produce many other corn products including corn oil, corn starch, dextrose, soap stock, animal feed, and several chemicals used in other industrial processes.

Separating corn starch from corn

Converting corn starch into corn syrup

Converting corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup

Quality Control

Corn syrup is primarily used as a food product. In the United States, its production and use falls under the control of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which sets rigid quality standards. The corn refiners, working through the Corn Refiners Association, have developed comprehensive analytical procedures for testing the properties of corn products, including corn syrup. Some of the important properties of corn syrup are dextrose or fructose content, carbohydrate composition, solids content, sweetness, solubility, viscosity, and acidity. In addition to monitoring the materials and processes used to make corn syrup, manufacturers also take frequent samples of the finished product for analysis.

The Future

Because of the ready supply of corn in the United States, it is expected that corn syrup and other corn sweeteners will continue to be used extensively in food products.

Corn is also expected to be a source of many other products in the future. Ethanol can be derived from corn and offers a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline for use in motor vehicles. Corn starch can be used as a raw material to replace petroleum in the production of chemicals and plastics. Corn products may also find applications in the production of drugs and antibiotics.

Where to Learn More


Considine, Douglas M., ed. Foods and Food Production Encyclopedia. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982.

Hui, Y.H., ed. Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1992.

Matz, Samuel A. The Chemistry and Technology of Cereals as Food and Feed. Pan-Tech International, 1991.

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. McGraw-Hill, 1997.


Corn Refiners Association. .

"Corn Refining: The Process, The Products." Corn Refiners Association Inc., 1992.

"Nutritive Sweeteners From Corn." Corn Refiners Association Inc., 1993.

"Tapping the Treasure." Corn Refiners Association Inc., 1997.

Chris Cavette

Also read article about Corn Syrup from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Effie Velardo
I bought some powdered fructose from corn at the health food store how should I measure this compared to regular sugar and how many calories does it have ?

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