FDA: High Fructose Corn Syrup Isn't "Corn Sugar"

Dealing what is surely a mighty blow to those in the corn industry hoping to improve the image of high fructose corn syrup, the Food and Drug Administration has denied the Corn Refiners Association’s petition to rename HFCS as “corn sugar.”

The FDA laid it all out in the form of a letter to the CRA’s president, Audrae Erickson.

In the letter, dated May 30 and titled “Response to Petition from Corn Refiners Association to Authorize ‘Corn Sugar’ as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS),” Michael Landa, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition explains the reasons why the Sept. 14, 2010 petition is being denied.

We picked out some of the pertinent parts below:

As explained below, your petition does not provide sufficient grounds for the agency to authorize “corn sugar” as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS.

First, you contend consumers are confused by the name “high fructose corn syrup” and that the proposed alternate name “corn sugar” more closely reflects consumer expectations and more accurately describes the basic nature of HFCS and its characterizing properties.

The CRA was hoping the name change would help to change consumers’ perception that HFCS has more adverse effects for humans than sugar. The group contended that “corn sugar” more accurately reflects the nature of the ingredient.

Too bad, says the FDA.

However, FDA’s regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food….

Consequently, the use of the term “corn sugar” for HFCS would suggest that HFCS is a solid, dried, and crystallized sweetener obtained from corn. Instead, HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose. Thus, the use of the term “sugar” to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties. As such, using the term “sugar” would not be consistent with the general principles governing common or usual names.

Also important is the fact that “corn sugar” is already an FDA-approved alternative name for dextrose monohydrate. The letter points out that, far from clearing up confusion to consumers, changing the name of HFCS could cause confusion for some people who are already familiar with the current use of the name:

Moreover, “corn sugar” has been known to be an allowed ingredient for individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, who have been advised to avoid ingredients that contain fructose. Because such individuals have associated “corn sugar” to be an acceptable ingredient to their health when “high fructose corn syrup” is not, changing the name for HFCS to “corn sugar” could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.

Continuing on the dextrose monohydrate topic, the FDA also rejected the portion of the CRA petition that had asked to the agency to put an end to the old school use of “corn sugar.”

The thing we’re most excited about is the expected end to those horrid “corn sugar” ads that plague our basic cable commercial breaks.

Response to Petition from Corn Refiners Association to Authorize “Corn Sugar” as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) [FDA.gov]

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