High fructose corn syrup can't disguise itself as 'corn sugar,' FDA decides

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: corn sugar, HFCS, FDA

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(NaturalNews) The days of food and beverage makers hiding the gargantuan sugar content of high fructose corn syrup under the deceptive label of "corn sugar" are over following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision that prohibits the common industry practice.

According to recent reports, FDA regulators said they made the move to clear up any confusion about the definition of "sugar." It's a rule change that comes at a time when high fructose or high sugar content foods are coming under increasing scrutiny by healthcare advocates and policymakers alike as one of the leading causes of the nation's obesity epidemic.

"FDA's approach is consistent with the common understanding of sugar and syrup as referenced in a dictionary," the agency said in a letter posted on its Web site in late May.

The decision isn't setting well with corn processors - as you might expect - but the sugar industry is pleased, as are a number of health advocates like NaturalNews who believe the high fructose content in most of the nation's processed foods is slowly killing a generation of Americans, all the while raising already exorbitant healthcare costs by causing spikes in a host of obesity-related diseases.

As it stands, the U.S. is the world's largest consumer - and maker - of high-fructose corn syrup. Initially added mostly to beverages in the 1980s , in subsequent years food manufacturers have loaded their fare with the stuff. Only in recent times, as the nation's collective waistline expands, have some food makers scaled back its use and have been trying out a return to plain, old sugar (which, in excess, is also not good for you).

Sugar - high fructose corn syrup - what's the difference?

One corn industry group, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), petitioned the FDA to allow the food industry to label high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as "corn sugar," saying both were nutritionally and metabolically equivalent, Reuters reported. The FDA denied that petition.

Sugar industry groups agreed with the FDA, saying that isn't the case at all, and resorted to filing suit against the CRA and others like producers Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland to kill ad campaigns equating HFCS with sugar.

Syrup, the FDA says, conjures up an image of being aqueous or liquid among consumers, while sugar is generally associated as being dry, crystallized and solid.

"The use of the term 'sugar' to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties," said the FDA, in a letter to the CRA.

At present, corn sugar can, at times, refer to another sugary substance - dextrose - which comes from corn starch. Dextrose was developed for people who don't have the ability to absorb or tolerate syrup.

Equating HFCS with "sugar" is putting such people at risk, the government says.

Small victory, big implications?

The decision is "a victory for American consumers," says Dan Callister, a lawyer for the Sugar Association, an industry group.

The CRA, however, said the FDA wasn't questioning that corn syrup was one form of sugar or that consumers might find themselves confused by "high-fructose corn syrup" on labels. Additionally, the group said it works "every day to educate consumers about high fructose corn syrup, particularly that it is nutritionally equivalent to other sugars."

"In light of the FDA's technical decision, it is important to note that the agency continues to consider HFCS as a form of added sugar," said Audrae Erickson, the group's president, in a statement.

No matter. The FDA has spoken. And as long as healthcare costs (and the government's share of them) continue to skyrocket due in large part to an uptick in obesity-related diseases, expect to see a number of other policy changes aimed at reducing the number of calories in Americans' diets due to foods with high sugar (or "fructose") content.

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