F.D.A. denies petition to call HFCS ‘corn sugar’

by Staff
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WASHINGTON – The Corn Refiners Association may not call high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar.” The Food and Drug Administration denied the C.R.A.’s petition to use corn sugar as an alternate name for HFCS, because the petition “does not provide sufficient grounds for the agency to authorize ‘corn sugar’ as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS.”

Specifically, the F.D.A. stated it has specific standards of identity for sugar and syrup.

“F.D.A.’s regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food,” wrote Michael M. Landa, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the agency’s response to the petition. “Consequently, the use of the term ‘corn sugar’ for HFCS would suggest that HFCS is a solid, dried, and crystallized sweetener obtained from corn. Instead, HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose.

Thus, 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.”

The F.D.A. also denied the C.R.A.’s request to amend both the standard of identity for dextrose monohydrate to eliminate corn sugar as an alternative name, and the GRAS affirmation regulation for corn sugar to replace the term “corn sugar” with “dextrose.”

The C.R.A. has called HFCS “corn sugar” in a campaign that has included television commercials, print advertisements and Internet advertising. An ongoing lawsuit filed by a group of sugar growers claims the campaign is “false and misleading.”

“The F.D.A. denied our petition to use the term ‘corn sugar’ to describe high fructose corn syrup on narrow, technical grounds,” the Corn Refiners Association said in a statement. “They did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high-fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.

“The fact remains — which F.D.A. did not challenge — that the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HFCS. Consumers have the right to know what is in their foods and beverages in simple, clear language that enables them to make well-informed dietary decisions. In light of the F.D.A.’s technical decision, it is important to note that the agency continues to consider HFCS as a form of added sugar, and requires that it be identified to consumers in the category of sugars on the Nutrition Fact Panel on foods and beverages.”

The Sugar Association issued a statement in support of the F.D.A.’s decision.

“The F.D.A.’s ruling represents a victory for American consumers,” said Dan Callister, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation. “It reaffirms what most consumer advocates, health experts and policy officials have been saying all along: only sugar is sugar. HFCS is not sugar.”

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