Sugar by any other name …

sugar sugar label

Over the years, consumers have become increasingly aware of the presence of High Fructose Corn Syrup (or HFCS) in their food. As a result, the Corn Refiners Association has seen a marked impact on their sales—and in response has repeatedly tried to shift public perception. For instance, in 2008 the CRA released a series of advertisements (presumably in response to negative public relations about their flagship product) claiming that HFCS is “made from corn, is natural, has the same calories as sugar or honey, is nutritionally the same as sugar, and is fine in moderation.” While the PR tactic may have been designed to boost sales, the backlash against several of these claims ultimately had the opposite impact, and sales of HFCS dropped 9% the following year.

In the fall of 2010, the CRA applied for permission to use the name “Corn Sugar” in place of “High Fructose Corn Syrup” on nutritional labels for foods sold in the United States. According to former CRA president Audrae Erickson, “Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them … The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from—corn.”

The petition was rejected by the FDA in May of 2012, citing both basic differences between crystallized sugar and corn syrup, as well concerns that those with fructose intolerance might be put at risk if they believe the product to be something that it is not. And now the Corn Refiners Association is at it again—not with petitions to the FDA or commercials intended to persuade consumers, but with a subtle name change resulting from some laboratory tweaking of HFCS. As savvy shoppers attempt to avoid products with this particular sweetener, some packaged goods are now touting a “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” addition to labels. But take a closer look at the ingredient list, and there it is: the new isolated fructose.

According to the CRA, the term “fructose” can be used to denote a product that was previously known as HFCS-90 (meaning that it is 90% pure fructose and 10% glucose). Corn sweetener with 42% fructose is a 42/58 blend of fructose and glucose, making it only lightly sweet. HCFS, on the other hand, is a 55/45 blend of fructose and glucose; it is designed to be equivalent in sweetness to sugar, and is used to flavor many processed foods on the market. HFCS-90 is the sweetest of the formulas, and therefore can be used more sparingly. The CRA argues that the use of the name “fructose syrup” is entirely appropriate due to the chemical makeup of the ingredient. Conscious consumers, on the other hand, might not be convinced.

•Landa, Michael, “Response to Petition from Corn Refiners Association to Authorize ‘Corn Sugar’ as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)” Food and Drug Administration-31 May 2012
•“Sneaky Name Change has High Fructose Corn Syrup Hiding in your Health Food” NaturalNews.com-15 Jan 2015
•“Sweeteners” Corn Refiners Association-2016.
•Warner, Melanie, “For Corn Syrup, the Sweet Talk Gets Harder” The New York Times-30 April 2010.

From Berkshire Organics Newsletter, March 4th

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