Manufacturers of the infamous substance known as high fructose corn syrup are displeased at the ruling that it will retain its unfortunate name, at least for now. After the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petitioned to rename HFCS “corn sugar,” the Food and Drug Administration ruled yesterday that the change cannot be made.
This isn’t the first time the CRA has tried to get the name switched. In September 2021, the organization petitioned for the change, arguing that consumers have a bad view of HFCS because it has a complicated name.
But since the FDA has the authority to decide what food labels say, it argued back that the name change would be too confusing for consumers. This is because the FDA clearly defines sugar as “solid, dried, and crystallized” and syrup as “an aqueous solution or liquid food.” So calling a “syrup” a “sugar” would not be accurate.
DietsInReview.com’s Registered Dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, agrees with the ruling, saying, “I like the way the FDA ruled that consumers would be too confused by the name change. The last thing we need is more confusion about nutrition. A name change is a ruse often used when things are going badly.”
And consumers are well aware of this, with most identifying HFCS as the devilish substance that’s sweetening up the majority of our sodas, candies and everyday items like bread, cereal and pasta. High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than regular sugar, which is why food producers began using it instead of the white stuff decades ago. The substance has also been shown to cause more weight gain than sugar despite similar calorie counts, and make rats dumber.
It also doesn’t help that countless reports and documentaries – like King Corn and Fast Food Nation – have surfaced in recent years suggesting that HFCS is the cause of the obesity epidemic. And since then, consumers have been warned to avoid it like the plague.
To clear up any confusion, “corn sugar” is another name and form of sugar, and just like sucrose, HFCS, or dextrose, it can be added to our food and beverages. Specifically, corn sugar is a sweetener that’s produced by extracting the starch from the corn kernel. The starch is then put through a number of refining processes, which transforms it into a solid sugar. It can be refined even further and turned into a liquid sugar known as corn syrup. Corn syrup is the base of HFCS, which contains more additives and is processed to alter its structure and taste. Taste-wise, corn sugar is not as sweet as HFCS or granulated sugar, which is likely another reason the FDA won’t make the name change as it may be deceiving.
But HFCS manufacturers have continued to argue their case. In years past, the organization has even produced commercials that depicted HFCS as a safe and harmless sweetener, claiming it’s ‘made from corn, has the same amount of calories as sugar, and is fine in moderation.’ But not everyone is buying it.
For one, the sugar industry is loving the backlash. They’ve even developed their own counter-campaign to further encourage the bad rap associated with HFCS. And as a result, several high-profile companies have made the switch from HFCS to sugar to regain the loyalty and confidence of its customers.
But regardless of what it’s called, the fact is that any foods that are high in sugar can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, and may lead to even more cravings for sweet things. So sugary foods and beverages should be consumed in moderation. No matter what side of the debate you may fall on, HFCS, corn sugar and table sugar are all empty sources of calories and void of nutritional value. So, the focus should still be on limiting consumption.