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Natural Foods Merchandiser

High fructose corn syrup may get a new name from feds

Sugar is sugar, according to advertisements from the Washington, D.C.-based Corn Refiners Association. And with that thought, the same association applied Tuesday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to use the term “corn sugar” on food labels as an alternative to “high fructose corn syrup.” The group hopes a new name will help alleviate consumer confusion about the sweetener, which has been used for 40 years in many processed products including soda, bread and cereal.

According to the CRA, independent research indicates that nearly 58 percent of respondents believe HFCS has more fructose than table sugar. The association said that HFCS and table sugar contain approximately the same amount of fructose.

But natural products industry experts said that the name change may not sway consumer perceptions of HFCS. "It's no mystery why the CRA is taking this approach,” said Kimberly Lord Stewart, a health and wellness editor and analyst, and author Eating Between the Lines (St. Martins Press, 2007). “High fructose corn syrup has gained a suspect reputation among consumers. Consumer sources close to me say that this name change won't do much to change the negative impression in their minds."

Consumer demand for HFCS has dropped 11 percent, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The CRA disagrees with recent research linking HFCS to obesity. “A continuing series of inexact scientific reports and inaccurate media accounts about high fructose corn syrup and matters of health and nutrition have also increased consumer uncertainty,” the association stated in a release.

"Even though science hasn't yet made a definitive connection between HFCS and obesity and diabetes, many well-educated shoppers avoid HFCS for other reasons including that it is in far too many processed food products, and it is a nutritionally void ingredient,” Stewart said. “A 12 oz. soda can still contains 10 teaspoons of sweetener whether it is corn sugar or cane sugar."

Stewart predicts that since the federal government has now made recommendations on the grams of sweetener people should consume each day, HFCS could ultimately be regulated.

"The other issue that the name change will fail to resolve is our agricultural systems' co-dependence on corn for the over-production of highly processed foods,” Stewart said. “There is growing interest in this country for authentic, nutritious foods, whether in our school cafeterias or our kitchen tables. Cloaking the name of HFCS to corn sugar won't fool Americans who are seeking out real foods to feed their family."

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