by Daniel J. DeNoon
Would you like high fructose corn syrup better if it were called corn sugar?
The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) thinks you would. They also think that you’d understand high fructose corn syrup better if it had that more sugary name.
Unfortunately for the industry group, the FDA doesn’t agree. The agency this week denied the CRA’s petition to let the food industry call high fructose corn syrup “corn sugar.”
One glitch in the plan is that the name “corn sugar” is now used to describe dextrose. The CRA petition asked FDA to forbid this. But the FDA noted that some fructose-intolerant people look for products sweetened with corn sugar, expecting to get dextrose and not fructose.
The CRA isn’t happy with the FDA decision. They “work every day to educate consumers about high fructose corn syrup, particularly that it is nutritionally equivalent to other sugars,” according to a CRA statement.
And that’s true, as far as it goes. Table sugar, sucrose, is half fructose and half glucose. Not counting the 24% of the product that is water, the most common form of high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. “High fructose” really is a bit misleading in this regard.
A gram of table sugar is 4 calories. A gram of the sugars in high fructose corn syrup is 4 calories.
But in table sugar, the fructose and glucose are bonded together. High fructose corn syrup contains free fructose and free glucose. The body appears to metabolize table sugar differently than high fructose corn syrup. While some studies link high fructose corn syrup to high blood pressure and the metabolic syndrome, there’s no definitive proof that one form of sugar is worse for you than another.
Safety, however, wasn’t the reason the FDA denied the CRA petition. The FDA ruled that:
• Common usage and FDA regulations use the term “sugar” to describe a solid, dried, and crystallized food. Syrup is a liquid food.
• “Corn sugar” would suggest high fructose corn syrup is something more familiar to consumers than “an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose.”
• Since 1976, the FDA has allowed the use of the term “corn sugar” to describe dextrose. Fructose-intolerant people believe corn sugar is safe for them. The change proposed by the CRA “could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.”
The CRA also explored another name for high fructose corn syrup, but did not propose it to the FDA. That name: corn nectar.