While the Washington, D.C.-based Corn Refiners Association proposes to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar,” Mintel, a global media intelligence company, has found that consumers want added label disclosures on food and beverages containing HFCS. In Mintel’s consumer survey, 65 percent of respondents think manufacturers should disclose how much high fructose corn syrup their foods or drinks contain.
"It’s all about transparency,” said Kimberly Lord Stewart, health and wellness editor and analyst, and author of Eating Between the Lines (St. Martins Press, 2007). “One of the weaknesses of our food labeling system is that added sugars are not separated out from naturally occurring sugars.”
Almost half (44 percent) of respondents said that retailers, rather than manufacturers, should mandate HFCS disclosure.
“I think retailers can look like the real heroes by filling in the blanks for consumers and telling their customers how much of certain ingredients are in food,” Stewart said. “Trans fats was a perfect example of retailers taking the lead in informing, but not alarming shoppers."
Regardless of who is responsible for HFCS label transparency, which most consumers think is important, some respondents (37 percent) wouldn’t go as far as imposing restrictions on HFCS amounts in products.
“The public wants to be informed about HFCS content, while still maintaining their freedom of choice,” said Krista Faron, lead innovation analyst at Mintel. “While they still may choose better-for-you options, they don’t necessarily want the government or anyone else imposing limits on what can or cannot be added to their food.”
Perhaps this is because 64 percent of respondents think HFCS is OK in moderation—whatever that means.
“While sixty-four percent of those surveyed think HFCS is OK in moderation, few know what that means,” Stewart said. “For instance, a soda contains 40 grams of HFCS. Many consumers think this is a moderate amount until they know that 40 grams is nearly 10 teaspoons. It would be helpful if food labels listed major ingredients in measurements that people can easily identify.”