FDA: Corn Syrup Isn't Corn Sugar

By Amir Khan on May 31, 2012 8:51 AM EDT

Sugar
High fructose corn syrup isn't getting a name change, the FDA ruled on Wednesday. (Photo: Creative Commons)

High-fructose will continue to be named as such, the Food and Drug Administration ruled on Wednesday. The FDA rejected the Corn Refiners Association's petition to rename the controversial product from high-fructose corn syrup to corn sugar.

"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," Michael Landa, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a letter denying the industry's petition.

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The Corn Refiners Association submitted a petition to change the name on nutrition labels in 2010, but the FDA rejected the petition on "narrow, technical grounds."

"They did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars," Landa said in the letter.

The FDA also said the name change would confuse consumers and that HFCS does not meet the definition of sugar, which is a "solid, dried, and crystallized." Instead, it is classified as a syrup, which is "an aqueous solution or liquid food," according to the FDA.

HFCS is cheaper than sugar and is a popular substitute of sugar in processed foods, according to NPR. The product's reputation has taken a beating, however, as studies have linked it to obesity, although the American Medical Association doesn't recognize that HFCS leads to obesity.

Public perception of the food is poor, so the Corn Refiners Association launched a PR campaign to change that, which involved changing the name to corn sugar. The Sugar Association, however, took umbrage with suggesting sugar and HFCS are similar.

"What's going on here is basically a con game to suggest otherwise," Dan Callister, a lawyer for the Sugar Association, told USA Today. "What do con men do? They normally try to change their name. The FDA has thankfully stopped that."

Callister also said the FDA ruling benefits consumers.

"The FDA's ruling represents a victory for American consumers," he told Businessweek. "It reaffirms what most consumer advocates, health experts and policy officials have been saying all along: only sugar is sugar."

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