Newsflash: Corn sugar will not be the new name for high fructose corn syrup.

Back in 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (“CRA”) filed a petition with the FDA asking them for permission to use the term “corn sugar” as an alternate common name for high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). After 20 months of waiting, the FDA finally responded and surprisingly, they gave the CRA a big fat no.

In the CRA’s original petition, they claimed they wanted “corn sugar” on the back of your soda can because apparently consumers were confused by the term high fructose corn syrup. Hmmm…I’m sure it had nothing to do with with the fact that food companies are bailing from HFCS left and right.

Now before you go thinking that the FDA has started to truly look out for consumers, their reason for denying the name change is somewhat boring and technical. The bottom line “corn sugar” was rejected? HFCS is a liquid (syrup) and not a solid like sugar is.

Here is an excerpt of the official FDA response:

“…the use of the term “corn sugar” for HFCS would suggest that HFCS is a solid, dried, and crystallized sweetener obtained from corn. Instead, HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose. Thus, the use of the term “sugar” to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties. As such, using the term “sugar” would not be consistent with the general principles governing common or usual names under 21 CFR 102.5.”

The CRA responded by saying the FDA “…did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.” They continued explaining, “…that the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HFCS.  Consumers have the right to know what is in their foods and beverages in simple, clear language that enables them to make well-informed dietary decisions.”

With the average American eating and drinking their way through some 35 pounds of HFCS per year, we don’t need any other reason to make HFCS trickier to find on the label.  HFCS has been making the news lately with headlines like: This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory or this one from Clinical Epigenetics, A macroepigenetic approach to identify factors responsible for the autism (okay, that one sounds a little dry, but the study is very scary…basically points to the heavy metals used in the processing of foods like HFCS may be associated with increased autism rates).

So for now, consumers can continue to look for “high fructose corn syrup” as something to avoid on the ingredient label. But let’s face it, American consumption of all added sweeteners be it sugar, HFCS or artificial sweeteners is a serious problem and greatly contributes to our huge health issues as a country. Reduce your overall intake  and you may just find life a little sweeter.

Image: fishhawk via Flickr