Consumer groups have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging it to reject a Corn Refiners Association bid to allow ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative labeling declaration for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) asked the FDA in September last year to consider the alternative name for use on product labels.
The CRA argued that allowing the use of ‘corn sugar’ on ingredient lists would help consumers understand that HFCS is simply a sugar made from corn.
The CRA - a trade association that represents the corn refining industry in the United States - has repeatedly stressed that HFCS is not high in fructose, even though that is what the name may suggest.
In fact it contains proportions of fructose and glucose similar to those of sucrose, but it has been the subject of a spate of bad publicity over the past few years, and food and beverage manufacturers have increasingly switched from HFCS to beet or cane sugar (sucrose).
However, consumer groups including the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumers League have written to the FDA claiming that if food makers were allowed to label HFCS as corn sugar, it could obscure an ingredient with which the majority of consumers are already familiar.
In its letter to the FDA, the National Consumers League said: “Permitting HFCS to be called ‘corn sugar’ would allow manufacturers to conceal this ingredient from consumers…HFCS has been the name of this ingredient since the FDA’s original GRAS affirmation regulation in 1983.”
Meanwhile, the Consumer Federation of America said the FDA should not use its limited resources addressing the issue.
“The petition appears to be an attempt to address a decline in market share through a regulatory name change,” the organization said, adding that the CRA’s petition “amounts to an image makeover for a sweetener product.”
The CRA said in its September 14 petition to the FDA: “The proposed alternate name ‘corn sugar’ more closely reflects reasonable consumer expectations and more accurately describes the basic nature of the ingredient and its characterizing properties. Accordingly, revision of the high fructose corn syrup GRAS affirmation regulation to recognize ‘corn sugar’ as an alternate common or usual name would promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.”
The Consumer Federation of America said it disagreed with this assessment, pointing out that the FDA already defines ‘corn sugar’ as dextrose, and that nutrition experts have put forward names that may more accurately reflect the nature of HFCS, including ‘corn glucose and fructose syrup’ or ‘glucose-fructose corn sweetener’.
It is expected to take the FDA up to two years to decide whether to allow food manufacturers to list HFCS as corn sugar on ingredient labels.