It’s been nearly two years since the Corn Refiners Association began running ads referring to High Fructose Corn Syrup as “corn sugar,” in spite of the fact that the Food & Drug Administration hadn’t yet approved this name change for food labels. The FDA still hasn’t gotten around to making a decision on the matter, and a number of consumer groups are tired of waiting for a decision.
A coalition of four organizations, including our pals at Consumers Union, have jointly penned a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting the agency “promptly deny” the CRA’s petition for the corn sugar name change.
According to the letter — also signed by the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and Shape Up America! — nearly 5,000 comments have been submitted to the FDA in opposition to the name change. Only around 40 comments had been submitted in favor of the CRA petition.
Meanwhile, every day the FDA doesn’t make a decision is another day those folksy corn sugar ads continue to pop up on daytime basic cable commercial breaks.
“The FDA has a statutory responsibility to ensure that consumers have the opportunity to exercise free choice in the marketplace without being misled by confusing name changes designed to hide the identity of a controversial ingredient,” stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League.
The FDA has warned the CRA against encouraging its members to use the term “corn sugar” to while the petition is pending, but that hasn’t stopped the ads. The FDA doesn’t have any say over those ads, as they are not for a specific food product or company but for an ingredient.
“The FDA’s warning letter to the CRA is a step in the right direction, but the term ‘corn sugar’ continues to appear in national advertising within the jurisdiction of the FTC. The FDA should ensure that it and the FTC can stop such deceptive advertising by formally denying the CRA petition,” stated Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumers Union.
The letter was also sent to the head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The CRA and a coalition of sugar companies have been involved in a legal battle over the corn sugar ads. The non-corn folks have accused the corn folks of a conspiracy to deceive the public. That case is currently pending.