Industry Tries to Pull a Fast One on Consumers by 'Rebranding' High Fructose Corn Syrup

I’m sure you’ve seen it.  The new campaign for high fructose corn syrup in which the Corn Refiners Association, reflecting on changing consumer sentiment around high fructose corn syrup, have decided to rebrand and rename their product, petitioning the FDA for a name change, calling high fructose corn syrup “corn sugar.”


The ad campaign is brilliant.  Worried, they ask?  We are, too, they claim.  Only their concern doesn’t stem from the epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and corn allergies that we are seeing, but rather their concern stems from a 20 year low in the sale of high fructose corn syrup and the impact it is having on the profitability of members of the Corn Refiners Association (listed here). 

Due to a rapid decline in sales, the Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking that manufacturers have the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternate name for high fructose corn syrup on product labels because “corn sugar” more accurately describes the composition of the ingredient.

High fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener alternative to sugar. Its introduction into the food supply in 1983 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996 based on industry funded science that was submitted to the FDA.

Because of its value as a versatile ingredient that adds taste, texture, freshness, and sweetness to food, high fructose corn syrup is not only used as a sweetener but also as a preservative and stabiliser in food products to enhance and prolong their shelf life on grocery store shelves, driving profitability for the food industry.

As stated by the Corn Refiners Association, high fructose corn syrup, unlike sugar, drives profitability for members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and fulfills non-food roles in the following ways:

• Maintains freshness in condiments

• Enhances fruit & spice flavors in marinades

• Aids in fermentation for breads and yogurts

• Retains moisture in breakfast bars & cereals

•Makes high fiber baked goods and cereals palatable

• Maintains consistent flavors in beverages

•Keeps ingredients evenly mixed in salad dressings

Can sugar do that for the food industry? Not at all.

But high fructose corn syrup does a lot more for members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. It enhances profitability, increases margins and preserves products on grocery store shelves, reducing the costs associated with the labor-intensive exercise of restocking.  Sugar can’t do that.  Mother Nature didn’t design her to be that profitable.

But despite those differences, ”sugar is sugar”, claims the Corn Refiners Association.

And gas is gas, but the odors my kids emit aren’t the same thing that I put into my car to get them to school. To claim that would be irresponsible, and to claim that high fructose corn syrup, by any name, is the same as sugar is irresponsible, too.

So while the industry funded spokespeople and scientists who serve as consultants may promote the consumption of this product, based on industry funded science, in an attempt to drive profitability for the members of the Corn Refiners Association who produce it, the fact of the matter is that this corn product is not being used by Kraft, Coca Cola and Wal-Mart in the products that they manufacture and sell in other developed countries, especially products marketed to children.

So while the corn industry may encourage us not to worry our little heads about their product, using chiseled “farmers” as spokespeople urging us that, after all, it’s just “corn sugar” (and a few other ingredients that get spun into it in a laboratory), the reality is that corn allergies, obesity and diabetes have become increasingly prevalent since its introduction twenty years ago.

And while correlation is not causation, no long term human studies have been conducted on the impact that the novel proteins and allergens now found in our corn are having on the health of our children. So while the corn industry may claim “no evidence of harm”, as a result, American eaters might want to follow the lead of eaters in other developed countries and exercise precaution, opting out of the manufactured demand that the latest ad campaign is trying to create.

And rather than eat a product that was introduced in 1983 and engineered in a plant to drive profitability for Cargill, ADM and members of the Corn Refiners Association, you may want to exercise precaution and opt for sugar, as its presence in the marketplace proceeded the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and corn allergies that we are now seeing in our children.

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