Is honey made with corn syrup?

Honey is a natural sweetener produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers. It is composed primarily of the sugars glucose and fructose. Corn syrup, on the other hand, is a processed sweetener made from corn starch. So no, honey is not made with corn syrup.

What is honey?

Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honey bees. Bees collect nectar from flowers and store it in their honey stomachs. Enzymes from the bees break down the sugars in the nectar into glucose and fructose. Back at the hive, bees regurgitate the nectar and pass it between themselves, adding enzymes that further break down the nectar. The final product is honey, which bees store in wax honeycombs until humans harvest it.

Honey is approximately 80% sugars, with fructose and glucose being the main components. The remaining 20% is water along with hundreds of other substances like acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. The exact composition depends on the flowers bees visit. For example, honey made from orange blossom nectar tastes different than honey from clover. But in general, all honey contains the same core ingredients.

Common types of honey

  • Clover honey – mild flavor from clover nectar, light color
  • Orange blossom honey – citrusy flavor from orange blossoms, light color
  • Buckwheat honey – strong, molasses-like flavor, dark color
  • Sage honey – mild flavor from sage nectar, light to medium color
  • Manuka honey – distinct aroma and flavor from manuka flowers, dark color

What is corn syrup?

Corn syrup is a processed sweetener made from corn starch. To make corn syrup, corn kernels are first processed to extract cornstarch. The starch is then broken down into glucose syrup through hydrolysis using enzymes or acids. The glucose syrup is refined to produce different corn syrup products:

Types of corn syrup

  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – contains fructose and glucose, made by further processing glucose syrup
  • Light corn syrup – contains just glucose, no fructose
  • Dark corn syrup – contains glucose, maltose, and higher sugars for more color/flavor

So while honey contains natural fructose and glucose from flower nectar, corn syrups are man-made products that isolate and process starch from corn to generate sweeteners.

Is honey made with corn syrup?

No, honey is not made with corn syrup. Honey comes directly from flower nectar collected by bees. It goes through minimal processing, mainly straining and packaging. Corn syrups, on the other hand, are derived through extensive processing of corn starch in factories.

Some key differences between honey and corn syrup:

Honey Corn syrup
Made by bees from flower nectar Made from processed corn starch
Contains natural sugars like fructose, glucose, maltose Contains isolated corn sugars like fructose, glucose
Contains enzymes, minerals, antioxidants Highly refined, minimal nutrients
No major processing needed Heavily processed product

While their sugar content is similar, honey and corn syrup have completely different sources and production methods. Honey is not, and cannot, be made with corn syrup.

Why do people think honey contains corn syrup?

There are a few reasons why some consumers think that honey contains corn syrup:

  • Confusion between high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and regular honey. Both contain fructose and glucose.
  • Misconception that all sweeteners come from the same source.
  • Suspicion of adulteration or contamination during processing.
  • Confusion between pure honey and “honey blends” with added sweeteners.

However, legitimate, pure honey does not contain any kind of corn syrup. The USDA has standards of identity defining honey as a natural product made by bees. Any product labeled as “honey” must meet these standards.

How to tell if honey contains corn syrup

To determine if honey contains corn syrup, check the product label and packaging. Pure honey will not list any other added sweeteners like corn syrup, sucrose, or cane sugar. Here are some tips:

  • Read the ingredient list – it should only contain “honey”
  • Look for keywords like “pure”, “raw”, “unpasteurized” – indicates less processing
  • Avoid blends like “honey syrup” or “table honey” – may have additives
  • Buy from local beekeepers to ensure quality control
  • Choose organic, ethical sourcing standards for assurance
  • Consider the texture – pure honey is thick while corn syrup blends are thinner
  • Taste the flavor – pure honey has distinctive floral notes

Checking for corn syrup extend to products containing honey as well, like energy bars, cereals, and baked goods. Read the ingredients lists to identify added sweeteners. With a bit of label scrutiny, you can determine if a product contains any corn syrup alongside or in place of real honey.

Testing methods

There are also laboratory techniques that can verify the purity and composition of a honey sample:

  • Isotope ratio analysis – compares carbon isotopes to match honey to its floral source
  • NMR spectroscopy – identifies and quantifies sugars, adulterants, etc.
  • Liquid chromatography – separates and analyzes individual compounds
  • Antibody-based tests – detects corn proteins from corn syrup

However, these analytical methods require specialized equipment and are not practical for everyday use by consumers. Sticking to reputable, quality honey sources remains the best approach.

Health impacts of corn syrup in honey

Pure honey has a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation. It provides antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. However, adulterating honey with corn syrup essentially eliminates any of honey’s unique health advantages. Corn syrup is highly processed and offers just simple sugars without other nutritive value.

There are also concerns that adulterated honey may sneak in undesired compounds:

  • HFCS may bring more fructose than glucose, impacting blood sugar
  • Residues from chemical processing of corn syrup
  • Higher risks of allergens from corn contaminants

Corn syrup also does not provide the antimicrobial effects that can benefit wound healing and immunotherapy. So while corn syrup itself has minimal health impacts in small amounts, its presence in honey removes the unique therapeutic properties that make honey beneficial.

Is corn syrup toxic?

In its pure form, corn syrup is not inherently toxic or dangerous at typical consumption levels. However, there are some controversies around its health effects:

  • Associations with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disease from extra calories and high fructose intake
  • Contamination with MSG or its byproducts during processing
  • Use of genetically modified corn as a raw ingredient

For these reasons, there are concerns about relying on corn syrup as a primary sweetener in the diet. But in small quantities, it does not contain anything acutely toxic. Any health risks come from overconsumption, not normal sporadic use.

Honey industry standards on corn syrup

The honey industry follows quality and purity standards that prohibit adulterating honey with any unapproved additives, including corn syrup. For example:

  • USDA National Honey Grading Standards – legally define honey and processing requirements for U.S. honey
  • Codex Alimentarius Standards – international standards for honey purity and quality
  • True Source Certification – voluntary auditing program to certify ethical sourcing

These standards all indicate that pure honey cannot contain corn syrup or other adulterants. Honey producers found violating the standards face penalties such as confiscation, fines, and even federal prosecution.

Certification program Testing methods Non-compliance actions
USDA Grading Lab tests for purity Product rejection, federal prosecution
Codex Standards Pollen analysis Recall, export rejection
True Source Audit trail, site inspections Decertification, membership termination

So while adulterated honey does reach consumers, certified honey producers follow strict guidelines to prevent this and face severe consequences if caught.

Should honey contain corn syrup?

There is ongoing debate around whether honey should contain added sugars and sweeteners like corn syrup. Some of the key considerations around adulterating honey with corn syrup include:

Reasons some producers add corn syrup

  • Masking honey shortages when bee populations and nectar are low
  • Cutting costs – corn syrup is cheaper than natural honey
  • Reducing crystallization – corn syrup keeps honey fluid longer
  • Easier to blend into homogeneous product year-round

Reasons to keep honey pure

  • Preserve unique nutritional profile of honey
  • Provide accurate labeling to consumers
  • Maintain honey as a high-value farm product
  • Support sustainability of beekeepers and honeybees

Ultimately, there are merits on both sides of the debate. But most advocacy groups and health organizations stand firm that honey should remain a pure, natural product according to both tradition and regulations.


Honey does not and should not contain corn syrup. Honey is produced naturally by honey bees collecting floral nectar. Corn syrup is derived from processed corn starch. While their sugar contents are superficially similar, their sources, production, composition, and health impacts differ significantly. Most honey producers follow standards that prohibit adulterating honey with any unauthorized additives, including corn syrup. Consumers can check for pure honey by reading labels, knowing sources, and evaluating texture and flavor. While synthesis may be economically motivated, honey industry guidelines and ethical producers uphold honey purity and quality standards without diluting the natural product that bees provide.

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