This week the FDA denied a petition from the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to change the name high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to corn sugar. The ruling came after considering the petition over the past 20 months.
CRA applied for the petition after investing in a $20 million advertising campaign to convince consumers sugar and HFCS were identical. Soon after, the Western Sugar Cooperative filed suit against sugar refiners for misleading consumers in calling HFCS corn sugar.
It all resulted when CRA was scrambling for an image makeover after consumers began to turn their noses up to HFCS. While sugar and HFCS share the same biochemistry, HFCS goes through extensive processing. It starts off with corn kernels but then corn is spun at a high velocity and combined with three other enzymes: alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and xylose isomerase, so that it forms a thick syrup that's super sweet.
Marketing is Not the FDA's Role
Moreover, the reason for the change has little to do with the fact that sugar and HFCS have a similar biochemistry and everything to do with increasing the market share of the product.
Here's a portion of Marian Nestle's FDA comment which she posted on her blog Food Politics:
It is highly unlikely that public misunderstanding of nutritional biochemistry and the differential physiological effects of glucose vs. fructose will be addressed and corrected by changing the name of HFCS to corn sugar.
Therefore, the name change is not in the public interest. Its only purpose is to further the commercial interests of members of the Corn Refiners, and that is not one the FDA should be concerned about.
The FDA denied the claim for a number of reasons but it's chief reason was that “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.”
Cheers to a good decision on the part of the FDA.