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Sweet victory for consumer advocates: FDA denies Corn Refiners’ petition for High Fructose Corn Syrup name change

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June 1, 2012
Contact: Carol McKay, NCL Communications, (412) 945-3242, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC—Consumer advocacy organizations today welcomed the decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject a bid by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to “corn sugar.”

“This is an important victory as it upholds the principle of ‘truth in labeling’ for consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League (NCL). “We applaud the FDA for acting as the ‘cop on the beat’ to ensure consumers aren’t misled by changing the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to something it is not.”

The groups—NCL, Consumers Union (CU), Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and Shape Up America! (SUA)—signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in April of this year asking that the agency reject the CRA's proposed name change.

The consumer letter called on the agency to “promptly deny” the CRA petition to change the name of HFCS and noted that the FDA had received nearly 5,000 comments submitted from the general public opposing the name change, at a ratio of 100:1  and urged the agency to act quickly because “FDA’s failure to promptly deny the CRA petition allows the trade association to continue to run deceptive marketing campaigns calling HFCS ‘corn sugar’ and confuses consumers who wish to avoid the ingredient.”

FDA rejected the CRA petition in a letter to the trade association made public yesterday stating that “we conclude that your petition does not provide sufficient grounds for the agency to authorize ‘corn sugar’ as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS.”

The FDA letter further stated, “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.”

CRA’s petition, filed in 2010, asked the FDA to do several things, including amend the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status of HFCS to designate “corn sugar” as an alternate name for the product.

“We agree with the agency’s assessment that changing the name of HFCS to ‘corn sugar’ would not accurately reflect the product’s composition and would mislead consumers,” said Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumers Union. “Traditional sugar and HFCS are distinct and very different products.”

“Thousands of consumers wrote to the FDA urging the agency to deny the petition,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “FDA’s decision preserves information on the ingredient label that consumers want to know.”

“Honest labeling is an essential part of reducing diet-related illnesses and diseases,” added Barbara J. Moore, President and CEO of Shape Up America! “We congratulate FDA for making a decision that serves to protect consumers.”

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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.