May 31, 2012
FDA Rules Corn Syrup Is Not Sugar
A bitter feud has erupted between two “sweet“ groups, partly blamed on a recent medical study that claimed that “sugar can make you dumb,” and further cast by the ruling of a federal agency rejecting one group´s attempt to refine its product´s title.
The issue at hand is the Corn Refiners Association´s bid to rename high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar.” In an attempt to reverse the bad reputation high fructose corn syrup has been labeled with in recent years, the group is saying that corn syrup is in fact a form of sugar, and should be able to call it a sugar.
The Sugar Association, which opposes the renaming, is crying foul, alleging the corn syrup group is only trying to sugarcoat its image by calling its sweetener a “sugar.”
And, in fact, the Corn Refiners Association´s application submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010 to get approval to change the product name on nutrition labels has been shot down by the agency.
The FDA said in its ruling that sugar is defined as a solid, dried and crystallized food -- and not a syrup.
Sugar Association´s attorney, Dan Callister, said the FDA ruling confirmed the group´s stance that sugar and corn syrup are two distinct products.
“What´s going on here is basically a con game to suggest otherwise,” Callister said, adding that like cons typically do, they tried to change their name. “The FDA has thankfully stopped that.”
Despite the ruling, the Corn Refiners Association is standing by its claim that “the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HFCS.”
High-fructose corn syrup, introduced in US products beginning in the late 1970s and early 80s, is widely used in cereals, sodas and other processed foods because it is much cheaper than sugar and usually mixes well with other ingredients. Despite the name, the group said the most common forms of corn syrup are actually half fructose and half glucose.
A recent medical study only added insult to injury.
The Sugar Association released a statement this week stating that the study, which prompted headlines that read: “Sugar can make you dumb,” was actually based on fructose and not sugar. The group said all the confusion stemmed from a “multi-million-dollar ad campaign” by the Corn Refiners Association.
Audrae Erickson, president of Corn Refiners Association, said the Sugar Association´s press release “seems to be an effort to silence the campaign” to educate consumers.
A lawsuit filed by the Sugar Association last year argued that the corn group was misleading consumers into believing its corn syrup was a form of sugar.
John Burlingame, a lawyer for the Sugar Association, said the group is not trying to block free speech, but just wants to point out that high fructose corn syrup is chemically distinct and derived from a different source than sugar, and that it´s producers should not be allowed to mislead consumers into believing otherwise.
The American Medical Association is pushing for further research on high-fructose corn syrup, but said there is not enough evidence to restrict its use for now.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said there is no evidence that shows corn syrup is any worse for the body than sugar.