"Corn Sugars" - Coming soon to an ingredient list near you?

>> Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you probably have already read the news.  The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration to change the name "high fructose corn syrup" to "corn sugars."  The reason they give for wanting the name change?  Audrae Erikson, president of the Corn Refiners Association says,

Clearly the name is confusing consumers.  Research shows that 'corn sugars' better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose, and the sweetness of the ingredient. (1)
Take a moment to either stare at that quote incredulously or to laugh hysterically.  I think that I did both.

Why the change?  Could it be that sales are down?  Much as "dried plums" sound more appetizing to the buying public than "prunes," the Corn Refiners Association is betting that "corn sugars" will appease consumers.  "Corn sugars" does sound nicer than high fructose corn syrup, doesn't it?  And there is the added plus that many who question whether they want HFCS in their food because of bad press (or maybe the ridiculous HFCS ads from the Corn Refiners Association) might not notice the name change and will buy foods with "corn sugars" in the ingredient list.  (All of the above is my own opinion and conjecture.)

HFCS factory
Let's review how HFCS is made.  Where do these "corn sugars" come from, anyway?  Are the kernels that they use to make HFCS just bursting with sugars waiting to be harvested?  Um...no. High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch.  The corn kernels go through a series of mechanical and solvent washing steps to separate the corn starch from the rest of the kernel.  The corn starch is then converted to dextrose (aka glucose) by acids and/or enzymes.  The glucose is further converted to fructose enzymatically. (Read more on corn syrup production at the Corn Refiners Association and HFCS production at SweetSurprise.com.)

Got that?  Those "corn sugars" are not found naturally in corn in any appreciable amount.  "Corn sugars" are really corn starch that has been chemically converted to glucose and fructose.

Frankly, if the Corn Refiners Association wants to clear any confusion for the American public, they should change the name to glucose-fructose, which is the terminology used in Canada and much more representative of the actual product, in my opinion.  But, glucose-fructose doesn't evoke the same fuzzy feeling as "corn sugars."

When is the change coming?  The FDA has 6 months to rule on the name change.  If they agree to allow the name change, products will slowly shift to using the term "corn sugars" instead of high fructose corn syrup over the subsequent 12-18 months.

Want to read more?  Just a few of the articles on the subject that have been posted over the last couple of weeks.  Read and come to your own conclusion on the name change!

(1) A New Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup from The New York Times
One More Time:  Corn Sugar Chemistry from Food Politics by Marion Nestle
Help Rename High Fructose Corn Syrup from The New York Times
Fortunately, 'Corn Sugar' Has Become a Sticky PR Mess from Dr. Andrew Weil
CornSugar.com from the Corn Refiners Association

What do you think about the name change?


Mama Mama Quite Contrary October 5, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

I think it was bound to happen now that a lot of people are hip to the dangers of HFCS. I'm glad that I am aware of this and will know to look for "corn sugars" on the labels should the FDA approve it.

Thanks for the background on how HFCS is made. It really seems impossible to get more processed than that!

Blake October 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM  

Thanks for breaking down how HFCS is made and showing how heavily processed it is. We're still gonna try and stay away from it, even if it's called "corn sugars."

jenna October 7, 2010 at 8:11 AM  

makes me angry that food manufacturers play on the public's ignorance to put toxins in our food. it's sad that parents have to be chemist's to determine what is safe to eat. thank you for all you do!

Lindsey October 7, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

This is yet another reason to eat all natural foods. When you pick up an apple or an egg, you don't have to guess what is in it. You know. The same goes for actual corn and every other recognizable food.

viagra online February 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM  

Come on this kind of syrup isn't as unhealthy as you say!

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