Photo: Food Inc.
In a defeat for big corn refiners such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, the Food and Drug Administration has rejected a bid by the industry to officially rename high fructose corn syrup “corn sugar” on nutritional labels.The Wednesday decision comes after the Corn Refiners Association sought to deflect bad publicity surrounding the health effects of its controversial sweetener by petitioning the FDA for the name change last September.
High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is used widely in cereals, sodas and other processed food and drinks because it’s cheaper and easier to use.
But recently health advocates have raised questions about whether it contributes to problems such as insulin resistance.
The corn refiners have long disputed these claims and last year argued to the FDA that HFCS is similar to cane sugar in every way relevant to consumers, including that the two products have equivalent ratios of fructose and glucose and both are metabolized similarly in the bloodstream.
But the agency said that it has long defined sugar as a crystalline solid, not a syrup and that corn sugar is a common name for dextrose-based sweeteners used by people who are medically prevented from consuming fructose.
The ruling is a victory for the sugar industry, which has sued the corn refiners in federal court over an advertising campaign aimed at convincing consumers that HFCS and granular table sugar are essentially the same thing. “Your body can’t tell the difference,” the ads said.
“The FDA’s ruling represents a victory for American consumers,” said Dan Callister, an attorney for the sugar growers and refiners in the ongoing litigation. “It reaffirms what most consumer advocates, health experts and policy officials have been saying all along: only sugar is sugar.”
But Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, said the FDA decision was based 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,” Erickson said.
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