WASHINGTON — The Corn Refiners Association on Sept. 14 petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow manufacturers the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternative name for high-fructose corn syrup.
“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the C.R.A. “The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from — corn.”
High-fructose corn syrup has been under fire for some time because of studies claiming it was a major contributor to obesity, although other studies also have shown it was no greater a contributor than beet and cane (table) sugar or other sugars. A number of companies have removed HFCS from their products, and noted the absence of it on their labels, over the past couple of years, and more continue to do so. Use of HFCS in the United States has been declining for several years.
The American Dietetic Association in December 2008 said HFCS was nutritionally equivalent to table sugar, both sweeteners contained the same number of calories per gram and “once absorbed into the bloodstream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”
The C.R.A. noted HFCS was not high in fructose when compared with other commonly used nutritive sweeteners such as table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates.
“Like table sugar, it is roughly half glucose and half fructose and is metabolized by the body in the same way as regular table sugar,” the C.R.A. said, adding that the HFCS used in many foods, including baked goods, was lower in fructose than is table sugar.
HFCS 55, which contains 55% fructose, is mostly used in beverages, while HFCS 42, with 42% fructose, is used in most other food applications, including baking. By comparison, honey has an average of 47% fructose, sucrose (table sugar) has 50% and agave nectar has 75%, although the latter may vary widely.
The C.R.A. said independent research showed current labeling was confusing to American consumers, with 58% of respondents saying they believed HFCS had more fructose than table sugar. The refiners group also attributed consumer uncertainty to “a continuing series of inexact scientific reports and inaccurate media accounts about HFCS and matters of health and nutrition.”
“The last thing we want is for Americans to think that avoiding HFCS is the answer,” registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil said in a statement from the C.R.A. “All added sugars should be consumed in moderation.”
Ms. Erickson added, “We hope that the F.D.A. will act positively on our petition in the interest of consumer clarity.”