Why Is Big Corn Continuing To Run ‘Corn Sugar’ Ads Even After FDA Denial

UPDATE: The Corn Refiners Association has issued a statement to Consumerist. It has been added to the bottom of the post.

It’s been more than a week since the FDA issued its ruling against the Corn Refiners Association’s petition to have High Fructose Corn Sugar re-named “corn sugar” on food labels. And yet, the CRA continues to flood the basic cable airwaves with ads touting the name and its websites.

(FYI, since the CRA no longer allows embedding of its YouTube ads, here’s a link for you to enjoy one of the folksy spots.)

We reached out to the FDA about this, but part of the reason that the CRA was able to run those ads while the petition was pending is because the FDA has no control over ads that are not for specific food products. And since no one is going out and buying HFCS at their local Kroger — though some foods may as well be considered to be pure HFCS — FDA couldn’t do anything about it.

Thus it lies in the Federal Trade Commission’s lap to decide whether or not these ads are deceptive. Certainly, during the FDA review of the petition, it would have been presumptive for FTC to make such a call. In the wake of the decision, it will have to decide whether or not these ads are making false or misleading claims.

One question it will likely face is whether the CRA’s continued use of “corn sugar” is potentially harmful to fructose-sensitive and fructose-intolerant consumers. Currently, “corn sugar” is an acceptable alternative name for dextrose, which these people can eat safely.

In the FDA’s denial of the CRA petition, it wrote, “changing the name for HFCS to “corn sugar” could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.” What the FTC would need to decide is whether advertising — as opposed to labeling a food product — the “corn sugar” name would also pose this same concern.

We asked the FTC for comment, but the commission says it only issues statements after it has completed an investigation (which doesn’t mean there is necessarily an investigation being done on this particular issue).

We twice asked the CRA, which had previously been forthcoming with comments on the issue, to discuss its continued airing of the corn sugar ads and the promotion of cornsugar.com. However, it looks like we are on the CRA’s “don’t reply to them anymore” list.

The CRA did however, say last week that “the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HCFS,” so maybe the association is continuing the company line that these ads are intended to educate the public.

Adam Fox, a sugar industry lawyer involved in the ongoing litigation for the Sugar Association, which has been suing the CRA over corn sugar marketing pretty much since the first ad aired, tells Consumerist that he believes these ads are misinforming the public, “particularly in light of the FDA’s statement that calling HFCS sugar ‘would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.'”

Fox believes that “calling HFCS ‘corn sugar’ betrays a willful, deliberate plan to mislead the public.”

Only time will tell on which side the courts and/or federal regulators come down.

—-UPDATE—-
Statement From CRA President Audrae Erickson:

Our mission is to help consumers understand the simple, indisputable fact that high fructose corn syrup is just another form of sugar. Knowing this information will help them make better decisions about calorie control and consumption. The FDA did not address or question the scientific evidence that HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to table sugar and that the body can’t tell the difference between one sugar and another. The continued efforts of the Sugar Association to block our education campaign are nothing more than censorship because they prefer that consumers do not know that HFCS is a sugar.

Comments

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  1. Moniker Preferred says:

    OK, the Cornies are officially “swine”.

    This is what big business gives you when there IS regulation.

    • drjayphd says:

      You say this like rolling back regulations will stop them from running these ads.

      • CelticWhisper says:

        Actually I read that more as “This is what we get when we DO have regulation. Imagine how much worse it’d be if we DIDN’T.”

        Could be mistaken, but that’s the impression I got.

        • Moniker Preferred says:

          You get the prize for understanding English more gooder.

          Those who think deregulating and letting business be business is a good thing simply do not remember what things were like when that was the case.

          You can go places today where there is little real commercial regulation; China, for instance. There, the air in cities is so thick your own courtyard looks fogged in.

        • drjayphd says:

          Yeah, good point. Withdrawn. (Although the FDA needs to literally and physically beat down the CRA for their weasely actions. It’s the only way anyone will learn.)

  2. Cat says:

    Damned loopholes.

  3. RandomLetters says:

    Suck on it FDA! Suck it long and suck it hard.

  4. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    semantics…got to love it! When I say semantics I mean deep pocketed lobbyist.

  5. spartie says:

    Looks like cornsugar.com now redirects to sweetsurprise.com… it’s the same astroturf site though

  6. Gman says:

    This case is a near perfect example of why a common across-the-board govt regulation needs to happen. If one govt. agency says something should be stopped, they all should.

    Hey if your product has such a bad public reputation you have to use loopholes to get around public regulation and essentially ignore the requirements of the FDA to continue to use deceptive ads – then maybe your product should get the full force of govt. regulation and a gigantic fine on your sorry behind.

  7. Random Lurker says:

    “The continued efforts of the Sugar Association to block our education campaign are nothing more than censorship because they prefer that consumers do not know that HFCS is a sugar.”

    Ahahahahaha….. of course it’s sugar. That’s what “-ctose” means. And even for the non-scientifically inclined, it’s not the point. The point is Big Corn is trying to alter it’s image through deceptive semantic games instead of actually, you know, altering it’s image, and nobody is being fooled.

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    “they prefer that consumers do not know that HFCS is a sugar”

    It is “A” sugar, it is NOT sugar.

    See kiddies, semantics and not science is fun.

    • Zowzers says:

      It is very silly to me that people in general only associate the word Sugar to mean Sucrose (table sugar).

      Its like someone who grew up in the pacific north west around the redwoods and was always told that those redwoods were trees. And when they were shown pictures of oaks or elms they assumed that those were not trees, because they are not redwoods.

      talking basic chemistry should not feel like you are trying to teach someone rocket science.

      • Javin says:

        Except that you seem to completely misunderstand the science. Unbonded Fructose (which is what HFCS is in large amounts) is NOT treated like regular sugar by your body. Period. Undeniable fact. Fructose bound to Glucose (such as the fructose in fruits) and regular glucose go through the KREBS cycle without a problem. HFCS does NOT. It instead strips phosphates from the KREBS cycle, producing Fructose-1-Phosphate. Sorry, but science IS harder than you want to make it out to be. And HFCS is NOT the same as any other “tree.”

        • Zowzers says:

          And both you and consumerfan are making red herring arguments.

          How the body processes fructose vs sucrose or even glucose is irreverent to the fact that all three are sugars. That is the argument here, and what my statement was about. The term sugar does not describe one compound, it describes a whole family of carbohydrates.

          So saying that HFCS is not in fact sugar when it is quite obviously made of two sugars is being willfully ignorant of what the term sugar means.

          • consumerfan says:

            I’m perfectly aware of what the term ‘sugar’ means. And how HFCS differs from actual sugar (ie cane sugar).

            It is the Corn industry who is wilfully misleading the public about HFCS and how it differs from cane sugar.

            • Zowzers says:

              All of which is still irrelevant to HFCS being called a sugar. Which is their point “consumers do not know that HFCS is a sugar.”

              • consumerfan says:

                Which is irrelevant to the point being made by the FDA – which is the point of the article.

      • consumerfan says:

        It isn’t silly. The chemical term is saccharide, with monosaccharide and polysaccharide being more specific and carbohydrate being more generic.

        Sugar, though equivalent to saccharide, is a product. It can have impurities (brown sugar) or different sources (cane vs beet).

        Claiming that HFCS is sugar is saying that the absence of a glycosidic bond has no effect on nutrition. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have people who are sucrose intolerant.

    • ARP says:

      “…the body can’t tell the difference between one sugar and another.” Um, I’m pretty sure there are some exotic “sugars” that the body most definitely can tell the difference.

      But yay for lack of government regulation. They can keep repeating this lie without consequences.

  9. econobiker says:

    “FDA has no control over ads that are not for specific food products”

    Sure not food product, but an ingredient. They would have also loop holed it as “pending appeal” had they not had the ingredient loophole.

    And money buys all on tv- doesn’t matter if the subject matter is controversial or illegal (get rich quick scheme infomercials) just as long as the buy money is real green and in more amounts than the station would lose if customers complained.

  10. Concat says:

    Seriously guys?

    The only reason HFCS gets a bad rap is because it’s the sugar of choice for the food industry. You think if they made pop out of cane sugar America would all sudden drop 20 pounds per capita?

    I mean, yes, it is a war of semantics, but only because the media fabricated this HFCS scare in the first place and everyone thought there was something special about it that makes it unhealthy. It’s sugar. So yes, eating a lot is bad for you. It has nothing to do with being high in fructose, or from corn, or anything else.

    You wanna know another name for fructose? Fruit sugar. Yeah, fruit. But put it in a Mars bar and suddenly it’s synthetic poison.

    Just stop eating so much goddamn junk food ya fatty. Cane sugar isn’t gonna make your lifestyle choice any healthier.

    • Zowzers says:

      not more then twenty or so years ago there was a push against refined sugar that mirrors much of the current push against HFCS.

      people are always looking for something to blame their problems on.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Refined surgar takes less time for your body to process, so there is indeed a difference there, too. All food eaten affects your satiety in some way. Refined sugars affect it less, meaning you get hungrier again, sooner.

    • thatsiebguy says:

      It is different and is processed differently than plain sugar by the body. It’s not about getting fat, its about trying to pass off HFCS as something that it’s not.

      • Concat says:

        Sucrose, which is what cane sugar is composed of, breaks down to about half glucose and half fructose. And that is the same composition as HFCS!

        Moreover, there’s no such thing as “plain sugar.” Sugar is a category. Glucose is a sugar. Fructose is a sugar. Hence HFCS is a syrup made out of two sugars! HFCS is sugar, I promise you!

        I don’t work for the CRA. I don’t care what they call it. I’m happy with HFCS. But it drives me mental when people say HFCS is worse for you than cane sugar, or worse “plain sugar.” Excessive intake of sugar is bad for you, regardless of the source.

        • consumerfan says:

          Except that it doesn’t have the glycosidic bond, a difference which also exists in ‘invert sugar’. HFCS is ‘a’ sugar, but it is not sugar.

          Whilst it is true that overconsumption of any carbohydrate is bad for you, that is not the point.
          The point is that it is untrue that HFCS is the same as (table) sugar.

          Finally, the adverts are misleading. They say that “sugar is sugar” which is correct. But HFCS is not sugar, it’s corn syrup.

          • Zowzers says:

            “Except that it doesn’t have the glycosidic bond, a difference which also exists in ‘invert sugar’. HFCS is ‘a’ sugar, but it is not sugar.”

            you are contradicting your self there, as well as making a red herring argument.

            Having a glycosidic bond is irrelevant to something being classified as a sugar.

            You are stuck on the term sugar to only mean one thing, when it actually describes a whole family of compounds.

            • consumerfan says:

              ‘A sugar’ is not the same as being ‘sugar’. Other examples include invert sugar, corn sugar (the actual corn sugar, not HFCS), milk sugar and malt extract.
              These are all sugars (ie chemistry : saccharides) but they are not sugar (ie colloquial : cane sugar).

              • Zowzers says:

                Which, had you read the article was their claim all along “HFCS is a sugar.”

                • consumerfan says:

                  I have read the article and I have seen the adverts.

                  The claim in the article that HFCS is a sugar is a straw man argument because that it isn’t what’s being argued.
                  The argument is that HFCS should not be labelled Corn Sugar because there is already a product on the market called Corn Sugar. And one which is used by people with particular dietary concerns, who would be impacted by HFCS being marketed as Corn Sugar.

                  The claim that the FDA did not address or question the scientific evidence is weasel words because that’s not part of the petition to the FDA.

                  Now, if you had read the article, you would have noted that the FDA have said that HFCS is not sugar for regulatory/marketing purposes because it’s a liquid (syrup) and not a solid.

                  So, it’s ultimately irrelevant whether it’s chemically the same as cane sugar because it’s not physically the same. And therefore cannot be marketed the same.

                  • Zowzers says:

                    trying to change the name to corn sugar is stupid, as there is a product commonly known as that, but claiming HFCS is not a sugar is just being disingenuous

      • Zowzers says:

        clearly you haven’t made the connection that the word “Sugar” describes a very large family of carbohydrates rather then just one compound.

        remember this saying, If a compounds name ends in ose, its a sugar.

  11. duncanblackthorne says:

    Allow me to translate their helpful statement for the benefit of Consumerist readers:

    “Our mission is to help consumers understand the simple, indisputable fact that the Corn Refiners Association exists for one purpose only: to make money, regardless of what it does to the health and welfare of people consuming products containing HFCS. Knowing this information will help them make better decisions about calorie control and consumption: we don’t want you to, we want you to drink sodas 24/7/365. The FDA did not address or question the scientific evidence that HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to table sugar and what we’re telling you retarded sheep to believe is that the body can’t tell the difference between one sugar and another, so STFU and drink your sodas 24/7/265. The continued efforts of the Sugar Association to block our education campaign are nothing more than censorship because they prefer that consumers do not know that HFCS is a sugar — so STFU and continue to drink your sodas 24/7/365. We need to keep up the payments on our private jets, multi-million dollar mansions, Porsches we just bought last week, and the steady supply of high-priced call-girls and cocaine we consume — not to mention the cost of importing Coca Cola from Mexico (it’s the good stuff).”

  12. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Our mission is to help consumers understand the simple, indisputable fact that high fructose corn syrup is just another form of sugar.
    I call BS. Everyone thinks of “sugar” as the cane sugar we all see in supermarkets and restaurants. Their mission is to ‘help’ consumers not think that something which is extracted from corn in some secret way is the same thing.

    My biggest problem with HFCS is here in the USA, it is in E V E R Y T H I N G. Go outside the US, and many foods that are polluted with HFCS here are devoid of sugar (and HFCS), or may have sugar but in far smaller amounts than companies put HFCS in products in the US.

  13. j2.718ff says:

    Currently, “corn sugar” is an acceptable alternative name for dextrose, which fructose-intolerant people can eat safely

    The CRA says: ” the body can’t tell the difference between one sugar and another”

    If a person can tolerate dextrose, but not fructose, I think that’s evidence that the body *can* tell the difference between one kind of sugar and another. If one kind causes a group of people to die, and the other does not harm that same group of people, then I think it’s safe to conclude that there is a difference!

  14. nopirates says:

    fuck the CRA

  15. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    So this whole thing is “Big Corn” vs. “Big Sugar”, but somehow only one of the Big Consumer-hating Evil Consortiums is bad while the other is good. How is that decided, exactly?

  16. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I had a WTF? moment yesterday when I saw a cornsugar.com ad.

  17. saffronbandit says:

    Why can’t you buy HFCS at your local Kroger? I can buy it at mine.

  18. GrammatonCleric says:

    Somebody please give me a way to destroy these evil people.

  19. AnonymousCommenter says:

    Because they are not hobbled by “overly burdensome regulations.”? /s

  20. zandar says:

    “when can I have diabetes too, daddy?”

  21. thatsiebguy says:
  22. cbatt says:

    “Our mission is to help consumers understand the simple, indisputable fact that high fructose corn syrup is just another form of sugar”

    Sure, and ostrich is another form of meat, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same as chicken. The last study I saw was done by Princeton and they found clear evidence that HFCS affects the body very differently than cane sugar: http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/

  23. Arcaeris says:

    But it’s not a sugar, it’s a syrup. This was addressed by the FDA. In trade, sugars are solids. Chemically, sure, but you’re not talking to some guy running HPLCs all day, you’re talking to people buying Pepsi.

  24. quieterhue says:

    I am sorry, no. HFCS is a sweetener, but it is not sugar. Sugar is the granulated crystal substance that’s produced from cane plants. You may not like that HFCS has developed a bad rep, but you can’t start calling it sugar and assume that will solve the problem. There are lots of different sweeteners out there and we call them by different names, for example: honey, agave nectare, maple syrup, stevia extract, etc. And you know what? If these other sweeteners started changing their names to “Bee Sugar” and “Maple Sugar” the FDA would probably call their bluff too.

  25. MarkFL says:

    I don’t understand why the CRA even has a case. Since dextrose is already labeled as corn sugar, the research should be irrelevant. You can’t label a new product as milk, or gunpowder, or baseball, or even strychnine, because no matter what the health effects of your product, there are already products with those names.

  26. ReverendTed says:

    It’s true. Sugar is sugar. It’s ALL bad for you.