What is Karo Syrup and is it Healthy?


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Karo syrup is a highly processed sweetener that is toxic and best avoided in all culinary situations. This is especially the case for well-meaning but misinformed parents seeking to make a safe and nourishing homemade baby formula.

dark karo syrup bottle wooden background

Karo Syrup’s Sticky History

Karo syrup is mild, sticky sweetener made from cornstarch.

The Corn Products Refining Company of New York and Chicago originally developed it in the early 1900s for use as livestock feed. (1)

Karo syrup paved the way for high fructose corn syrup, one of the most popular and yet unhealthy, inflammation producing sweeteners in processed foods today.

The fact that karo has been around for over a century does not mean it is safe or healthy especially for babies and children!

Karo for Formula?

By the mid-1900s, karo syrup had evolved from animal feed into light and dark syrups for human consumption.

It even became a favored primary ingredient for baby formula!

Shockingly, doctors would direct mothers to blend karo with water and canned evaporated milk to feed baby on demand.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, dark karo used to be a recommended constipation remedy for children as well.

My own mother can attest to this foolishness. Her seven children were born during this era.

The doctor’s note below is from 1960. It shows that mothers were to feed their newborns every 3-4 hours with formula made from:

  • 13 ounces evaporated milk
  • 10 ounces water
  • 2 tablespoons (dark) karo syrup
karo syrup indicated on doctor's note for baby formula

GMOs, Glyphosate and Preservatives

With commercial baby formula shortages growing around the world, desperate parents seeking to make their own are reviving the use of this unhealthy mixture not realizing the dangers to their baby.

Karo syrup of decades ago was bad enough.

Today, manufacturers use genetically modified corn to make karo syrup.

This GMO crop is heavily sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup).

This herbicide is known to disrupt normal gut function, contributing to the development of autoimmune diseases according to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT. (2, 3)

In addition, the toxin sodium benzoate is used as a karo preservative. Among other concerns,The Lancet published a study that found sodium benzoate to be a potential trigger for ADHD regardless of the child’s mental health history or age. (4)

Under no conceivable circumstances should babies be consuming karo syrup!

This PhD nutritionist baby formula recipe using grassfed milk (or whole milk yogurt) is a much smarter and safer choice that mimics breastmilk most closely.

Note to self…karo is not safe for adults either!

For dessert recipes such as pecan pie that misguidedly call for this toxic sweetener, organic brown rice syrup is a good alternative to consider instead.


(1) An Overview of Syrup in America: A History of Karo, Maple, and Other Syrups

(2) Glyphosate. The Silent Killer

(3) Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance

(4) The Poison Squad