KANSAS CITY — After a group known as Citizens for Health called high-fructose corn syrup the “number one ingredient to avoid for this year’s ‘Read Your Labels Day,” the organization’s integrity was called into question in a sharply worded rebuttal by the Corn Refiners Association.

The exchange was the latest salvo between the leading sources of nutritional sweeteners in the United States.

Citizens for Health, which describes itself as a non-profit consumer advocate group with “over 130,000 supporters” said Read Your Labels Day was established to help the public learn what’s in packaged foods and the “controversial industrial sweetener was identified as the worst labeled ingredient on the non-profit group's Food Identity Theft web site.”

The group went on to assert that while the Food and Drug Administration has assessed the safety of HFCS 55, research has shown the fructose-to-glucose ratio of soft drinks to be higher that 55:45, with a mean of 59% fructose, and 64% to 65% in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Sprite.

John Bode, president and chief executive officer of the Corn Refiners Association, was dismissive of the Citizens for Health allegations.

“This lacks credibility,” Mr. Bode said. “In fact, all communications from Citizens for Health should come with a warning label, ‘Paid for by Big Sugar.’  Earlier this  year The Washington Post and The New York Times exposed the group’s deep financial ties to The Sugar Association and its leading role in spreading misinformation about HFCS.  In fact, one pundit called the group ‘Citizens for Sugar.’

“This latest attack by Citizens for Health continues to promote a study that has been discredited in internal memos written by The Sugar Association’s top science adviser who says it’s so unreliable that it cannot be trusted or cited anywhere.”   

Citizens for Health was taken to task in the Post and Times articles for its implication it is a grassroots consumer organization when in it is funded predominantly by the sugar industry.

In recent years, the corn refining industry has sought to neutralize critics of HFCS by linking the corn-based sweetener to the generic term sugar. The industry conducted an unsuccessful bid to rename its product corn sugar, an effort rejected by the Food and Drug Administration.

 In addition to opposing the “corn sugar” name, the cane/beet sugar industry has sought to create space between its products and corn sweeteners by seeking to raise doubts in the public’s minds about HFCS.

The “sowing seeds of doubt approach” is followed by Jim Turner of Citizens for Health in the group’s latest attack against HFCS.

“Per capita, Americans consume the same amount of real sugar today as they did in 1909, while we’ve watched diabetes and obesity rates skyrocket,” Mr. Turner said. “Many wonder if HFCS plays a role.  They might want to avoid HFCS until the questions about it are answered.”