Can King Corn win the HFCS 'natural' battle?

FDA staffer comment does not a policy make, says corn lobby

United States While proclaiming to a media outlet in April that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) does not qualify as 'natural,' the FDA made clear that it has no intention of issuing an official definition of the potent yet nebulous term anytime soon.

The corn lobby immediately refuted the comment, stating it "actually reflects only the personal view of that one employee" and "the official FDA position on products made with HFCS is unchanged."

In January, an FDA spokesperson said the agency is in no hurry to roll out an official definition, ? la organic, despite petitions by Sara Lee Corp and the Sugar Association.

In trumping these two, as well as consumer groups seeking a definition to allay confusion, it appears that 'King Corn' is living up to its moniker.

The advantage of HFCS to food manufacturers is that it is sweeter than sucrose, is easier to handle during processing, has a longer shelf life and is cheaper than sugar.

With tariffs on imported sugar, the Farm Bill and a propped-up corn-based biofuel industry, King Corn does all right by the US government.

The pitched battle over HFCS's
alleged role in obesity continues. Backers assert that HFCS has nearly the same composition and caloric content as sugar and honey (half fructose and half glucose, 4kcal/g). A July 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, supported by the Corn Refiners Association, concluded there was no difference between HFCS and sucrose on hunger, satiety or short-term energy intake.

Opponents point out the suspicious spike in obesity that correlates with the introduction of HFCS in the mid-1970s. In August 2007, at the American Chemical Society meeting, researchers disclosed a unique way HFCS's unbound fructose and glucose molecules increase reactive carbonyls that lead to diabetes.

Ultimately, while the FDA comment regarding HFCS's non-natural status may have a chilling effect on some natural beverage manufacturers, don't expect an iron-clad resolution in the near future.

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