Bookmark and Share September 15, 2010 - Dave Mulder

Corn sugar: Coming soon to your food labels

High fructose corn syrup is slowly dying. Americans have a negative opinion of HFCS and food manufacturers have started to move away from its use. Studies have pointed to poor health outcomes related to HFCS consumption. If there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the sweetener, it’s way off in the distance. What’s a corn lobby to do?

For starters, they can rename the product. The Corn Refiners Association of America has petitioned the federal government’s Food and Drug Administration for a formal name change. Citing the negative connotation of ‘high fructose corn syrup’, the lobby would like to allow it to be labeled as ‘corn sugar’.

“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,” said CRA president Audrae Erickson. “The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from – corn.”

The press release goes on to describe HFCS as a natural product no different, chemically, than table sugar and metabolized by our bodies in the same way. Therefore, the logic goes, it’s only reasonable to allow manufacturers to call the additive corn sugar, since it’s just another flavor of sugar.

There are some problems with their argument; chief among them is the claim that the HFCS and table sugar are metabolized in the same way (hint: they’re probably not).

Obviously, I have been pleased with the decline of high fructose corn syrup, and predictably, I am disturbed by the CRA’s rebranding attempt. It stinks like a last-ditch attempt to save an awful product, but the spin is so genius that it could pave the way for corn sugar to be bigger than HFCS ever was.

You can hear it now, parents telling other parents: “What, you feed your kids normal sugar? We only let our kid eat sweets sweetened with corn sugar.”
Or cereal companies will proudly display: This cereal is made with 100% pure corn sugar. Seriously, the brand cache — because it has a vegetable in the name, and because it has the word “sugar” — will be huge.

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