Yesterday, the FDA concluded its 20-month review of a petition by the Corn Refiners Association to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar,” with a pretty solid “no.” Not surprisingly, the CRA says regulators have done you, the American consumer, a disservice by denying the petition.
In a statement from CRA president Audrae Erickson, Big Corn claims that most of us are living under a cloud of uncertainty about HFCS:
The fact remains–which FDA did not challenge–that the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HFCS. Consumers have the right to know what is in their foods and beverages in simple, clear language that enables them to make well-informed dietary decisions. In light of the FDA’s technical decision, it is important to note that the agency continues to consider HFCS as a form of added sugar, and requires that it be identified to consumers in the category of sugars on the Nutrition Fact Panel on foods and beverages.
While the FDA’s letter did not directly counter CRA’s stance about the level of confusion among U.S. consumers, it did mention that there are a number of people with fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption issues that would be confused if the name change were permitted, as “corn sugar” is already on the FDA books as an alternative name for dextrose, which these fructose intolerant folks can consume.
Though it predates the proposed name change, it’s probably worth mentioning that a 2007 survey conducted by our cohorts at Consumer Reports found that 87% of Americans were opposed to being able to label products with HFCS as “natural.”
Urvashi Rangan, PhD., the director of the Consumer Safety Group at Consumer Reports, said about last night’s annoucement:
The FDA did the right thing. High fructose corn syrup is not ‘corn sugar.’ If the name had been changed, it would have given consumers the wrong impression that this product is ‘natural.’ This is a corn starch that has to be chemically processed. The term ‘corn sugar’ simply doesn’t reflect the chemical changes that take place in production. Consumers know the term high fructose corn syrup, and they should be able to easily differentiate among products that use it.