For more than a year, the folks at the Corn Refiners Association have been making a very public push to rebrand the controversial but widely used high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar,” telling consumers that “sugar is sugar.” But newly uncovered correspondence between the Food and Drug Administration and Big Corn show that regulators aren’t exactly thrilled about the new name.
The Associated Press has seen a letter sent from an FDA director to the Corn Refiners Association in July. In which the agency writes, “We request that you re-examine your websites and modify statements that use the term ‘corn sugar’ as a synonym for (high fructose corn syrup).”
But that was July, and yet CornSugar.com still operates because the FDA can’t stop an ad campaign that only seeks to promote an entire industry. However, if someone were to change HFCS to “corn sugar” on an ingredients list before the FDA has signed off on the name change, then the agency has the authority to intervene.
A rep for the Refiners defends the campaign to the AP by saying, “We do not believe that anyone could be confused or believe that the statements regarding ‘corn sugar’ on the websites refer to anything other than high fructose corn syrup.”
Except… the FDA already has something it calls “corn sugar.” You might know it as dextrose.
Big Corn had previously attempted to rebrand HFCS as “corn syrup,” even though it’s not the stuff you buy in the Karo bottle in the baking aisle.
Regarding the “corn syrup” change, which was subsequently dropped in favor of the change to “corn sugar,” an FDA deputy commissioner reportedly wrote, “It would be affirmatively misleading to change the name of the ingredient after all this time, especially in light of the controversy surrounding it… If we allow it, we will rightly be mocked both on the substance of the outcome and the process through which it was achieved.”
Earlier this year, a group of non-corn sugar companies filed a lawsuit against the Corn Refiners, ADM, Cargill and others over the “corn sugar” ad campaign, calling it “false advertising, pure and simple.”