February 10, 2011
Washington, DC — The nation’s oldest consumer group told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today that allowing a name change of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to “Corn Sugar” would be misleading to consumers and possibly expose the agency to future dilemma, depending on how scientific research and public perception may continue to evolve.
“Regardless of where you stand on the debate over High Fructose Corn Syrup and its effects on our waistlines and our health, changing the name after decades of use is unfair to consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Consumers are familiar with HFCS, they know how to find it on Nutrition Facts labels, and they deserve consistency so they can continue to make purchasing decisions.”
The National Consumers League (NCL), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit watchdog group, filed formal comments with the FDA urging the agency to reject a petition by the Corn Refiners Association requesting that the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup, a sweetener commonly found in soft drinks and processed foods, be changed to “Corn Sugar.”
The request by the corn refining industry, which makes HFCS, comes before a backdrop of controversial and evolving debate over the ingredient’s nutritional value and possible health implications.
The FDA officially approved the name “High Fructose Corn Syrup” in 1983, and the sweetener has been referred to by that name ever since. HFCS consumption has come under fire in recent years as a possible factor in a variety of health problems ranging from obesity to diabetes, and as a result, some consumers have decided to avoid HFCS. Several manufacturers of brand name foods and beverages have stopped using the ingredient including Hunt’s ketchup, Snapple, Gatorade, and Starbucks’ baked goods.
“The FDA should not play spin doctor for the corn refining industry or shield food companies who use the ingredient from the impact of emerging scientific evidence or from consumer preferences. Just as it would be premature to conclude that HFCS is harmful to health, an official name change could frustrate further scientific study and confuse or irritate consumers,” said Greenberg. “Should it turn out that HFCS does contribute to obesity or other adverse health outcomes, a regulatory decision allowing manufacturers to hide this ingredient from consumers could come back to haunt FDA.”
To read NCL’s letter to the FDA, click here.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.