Nov 07, 2011  |  Today's News

Several months ago the Corn Refiners Association filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to officially change the name of High-Fructose Corn Syrup to corn sugar. That petition is in the open comment period now. The petition was met with considerable push-back from the anti-corn crowd, but by the looks of this op-ed that was posted in Sunday’s Herald and Review, perhaps common sense is breaking through the noise.

FDA should approve name change to corn sugar

Posted: Sunday, November 6, 2011 5:00 am

By the H&R Editorial Staff

AS CONSUMERS become more aware of what’s on food labels, it’s important that those labels are as clear as possible.

That’s the main reason why the federal Food and Drug Administration should allow the corn refining industry to use corn sugar as a replacement name for high-fructose corn syrup.

There are other reasons why this is important, both in the Decatur area and in the Midwest. Archer Daniels Midland and Tate & Lyle are major suppliers of the corn syrup. The continued use of high-fructose corn syrup in the manufacture of food products is also important to corn farmers everywhere.

High-fructose corn syrup has gotten a bad name in recent years, primarily because of its name. When it was introduced to manufacturers, bakers and others nearly 40 years ago, the fact that it had a slightly higher concentration of fructose was a selling point. The additive is used as a sweetener in many products, but has the added benefit of adding moisture and extending the shelf life of some products. The other crucial factor is that corn syrup is less expensive than cane or beet sugar, usually about 30 percent to 40 percent. The use of high-fructose corn syrup helps reduce the price of food.

The corn syrup has in recent years been linked to gains in obesity, although the link is tenuous. The climb in the obesity rate is due to a lot of factors, including overall diet and lack of exercise.

The Food and Drug Administration regulations for changing the name are complicated. Representatives of the corn industry filed a petition to have the name changed a little over a year ago. The FDA has allowed public comment on the petition but is under no deadline to make a decision. In essence, the FDA could grant the name change or let the petition languish. Although many petitions are filed with the FDA each year, many are not as serious as the name change to corn sugar. There are a few instances of products receiving permission to change their names — prunes have been allowed to be called dried plums, and low-erucic acid rapeseed oil was changed to canola oil.

The name change would be optional, so that corn sugar and high-fructose corn syrup could be used interchangeably.

The Food and Drug Administration should grant this change in the name. It’s important to the economy in the Midwest, particularly Decatur, and it’s also critical so that consumers understand what is in their food.

As Leon Corzine, past president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer near Assumption, told the Herald & Review editorial board, he struggles to explain to consumers the misrepresentation of high-fructose corn syrup. He said he usually ends up telling people the product is corn sugar, essentially the same as cane sugar or beet sugar.

If the FDA wants consumers to understand the labels on food products, they should strive for language that is simple and clear. It’s hard to get simpler and clearer than corn sugar.