Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Considered A Natural Ingredient?

We get a lot of readers writing in to ask us whether or not a product containing High Fructose Corn Syrup can be labeled as “natural” or “all natural.” The latest was from Kirby, who questioned whether HFCS-containing “All Natural” sodas are indeed “all natural.” And, at least according to the FDA, the answer is “yes.”

While some companies have changed their labeling of products containing HFCS in recent years, it hasn’t been done at the behest of the FDA.

Around two years ago, someone at the FDA issued a statement that they believed the process for producing HFCS negated its claim to the “natural” label. But that was a short-lived victory for anti-HFCS types.

In July 2008, the FDA sent a memo to the Corn Refiners Organization clarifying their position on the topic — not surprisingly in favor of the corn refiners.

Our longstanding policy on the use of the term “natural” is that “natural” means that nothing artificial (including artificial flavors) or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included or has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.

The letter then goes on to say that, according to the unbiased people at ADM, the enzymes used to process corn syrup into HFCS do not end up in the final product and therefore don’t make the HFCS artificial.

Therefore, we would not object to the use of the term “natural” on a product containing the HFCS produced by the manufacturing process described by [ADM].

The FDA’s official position is that, so long as the HFCS in a product is made the way ADM says it’s being made, then the “natural” label is fine.

The question is, do you think products with HFCS should be allowed to be labeled as “natural”?