How to Avoid and Spot High Fructose Corn Syrup in Japanese Food

High fructose corn syrup is one of the most pervasive food additives both in the West and in Japan. In fact, it was a Japanese scientist who invented it in 1966 as a cheaper way to add sweetness, glossiness, and thickness to drinks, sauces, and marinades.

While avoiding highly processed foods is a good way to keep the pesky additive out of your diet, it can pop up in some seemingly unlikely places (rest assured that none of our products at Kokoro Care Packages include it!). Some staple pantry ingredients for Japanese cuisine regularly include it, which are typically the mass-produced varieties, as well as some sauces and seasonings.

 

Potential High Fructose Japanese Foods

 

Corn Syrup

Miso and Shōyu (Soy Sauce)

These are two of the mostumami-rich ingredients in Japanese cuisine, a result of the long fermentation processes that create them. In order to short-cut that process, many types of mass-producedmiso andshōyu are created using chemical processes rather than traditional fermentation techniques. The flavor, texture, and appearance of these chemically produced products is typically inferior to that of the traditionally crafted ones, so additives like MSG and high fructose corn syrup are added to improve the flavor.

 

Corn Syrup

Mirin

Likemisoandshōyu,mirin is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking, and another made traditionally through fermentation. In the same way mass-producedmiso andshōyu uses additives to imitate the flavor of their traditionally fermented counterparts,mirin is one of the biggest offenders in terms of using high-fructose corn syrup. One reason for this is because authenticmirin has a high enough alcohol content that it needs to be sold in a store capable of selling liquor. To get around this, producers create different types ofmirin to mimic the results ofhon-mirin, or truemirin, by using additives.

 

Corn Syrup

Mentsuyu, Tare, and Sauces

Mentsuyu,directly translated as noodle sauce, is a versatile sauce commonly served alongside noodles and tempura.Tare is a general term for dipping sauces that can be served with grilled dishes, hot pots, andgyoza dumplings, or come prepackaged with products likenatto. Both of these types of sauces and other common ones liketakoyakisauce,okonomiyakisauce, and ketchup tend to include high fructose corn syrup as they can generally fall under the category of processed foods.

 

What To Look For On Packaging

When looking at nutrition labels and ingredients lists (and feeling up to the challenge of deciphering somekanji characters) here are a few ways to spot high fructose corn syrup in Japanese foods:ぶどう糖果糖液糖, 異性化糖, 果糖ブドウ糖液糖,高果糖液糖.

 

 

About the author: The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!

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