Corn syrup makers want sweeter name: Corn sugar

By Associated Press
Posted Sep. 14, 2010 at 6:05 a.m.

The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten up its image with a new name: corn sugar. The bid to rename the sweetener by the Corn Refiners Association comes as Americans’ concerns about health and obesity have sent consumption of high fructose corn syrup to a 20-year low.

The group plans to apply Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration to get “corn sugar” approved as an alternative name for food labels.

Approval could take two years, but that’s not stopping the industry from using the term now in advertising. There’s a new online marketing campaign at and on television. Two new commercials try to alleviate shopper confusion, showing people who say they now understand that “whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.”

Renaming products has succeeded before. For example, low eurcic acid rapeseed oil became much more popular after becoming “canola oil” in 1988. Prunes tried to shed a stodgy image by becoming “dried plums” in 2000.

The new name would help people understand the sweetener, used most notably in soft drinks but also in bread, cereal and other foods, and distance it from connections to obesity, said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group.

“It’s an urban legend,” she said. “It has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood.” She declined to say how much the campaign costs.

Some scientists have linked consumption of full-calorie soda — the vast majority of which is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup — to obesity.

But sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally the same, and there’s no evidence that the sweetener is any worse for the body than sugar, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The bottom line is people should consume less of all sugars, Jacobson said.

“Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup,” he said.

The American Medical Association says there’s not enough evidence yet to restrict the use of high fructose corn syrup, although it wants more research.

Still, Americans increasingly are blaming high fructose corn syrup and avoiding it. First lady Michelle Obama has said she doesn’t want her daughters eating it.

Parents such as Joan Leib scour ingredient labels and won’t buy anything with it. The mother of two in Somerville, Mass., has been avoiding the sweetener for about a year to reduce sweeteners in her family’s diet. She also says high fructose corn syrup is not natural.

“I found it in things that you would never think needed it, or should have it,” said Leib, 36. “I found it in jars of pickles, in English muffins and bread. Why do we need extra sweeteners?”

Many companies are responding by removing it from their products. Last month, Sara Lee switched to sugar in two of its breads. Gatorade, Snapple and Hunt’s Ketchup very publicly switched to sugar in the past two years.

The average American ate 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s down 21 percent from 45.4 pounds 10 years before.

Cane and beet sugar, meanwhile, have hovered around 44 pounds per person per year since the mid-1980s, after falling rapidly in the 1970s when high fructose corn syrup — a cheaper alternative to sugar — gained favor with soft drink makers.

With sales falling in the U.S., the industry is growing in emerging markets like Mexico and revenue has been steady at $3 billion to $4 billion a year, said Credit Suisse senior analyst Robert Moskow. There are five manufacturers in the U.S.: Archer Daniels Midland Inc., Corn Products International, Cargill, Roquette America, and Tate & Lyle.

Corn refiners say their new name better describes the sweetener.

“The name ‘corn sugar’ more accurately reflects the source of the food (corn), identifies the basic nature of the food (a sugar), and discloses the food’s function (a sweetener),” the petition said.

Will shoppers swallow the new name?

The public is skeptical, so the move will be met with criticism, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

“This isn’t all that much different from any of the negative brands trying to embrace new brand names,” he said, adding the change is similar to what ValuJet — whose name was tarnished by a deadly crash in 1996 — did when it bought AirTran’s fleet and took on its name.

“They’re not saying this is a healthy vitamin, or health product,” he said. “They’re just trying to move away from the negative associations.”

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  1. MarkRG Sep. 14, 2010 at 7:08 a.m.

    It does not matter what name they try to hide it under.

    It does not matter how they try to portray it in commercials.

    There is mounting evidence it is worse for you than can sugar and I will continue to avoid it no matter what name it has.

  2. tim Sep. 14, 2010 at 7:32 a.m.

    markRG, i agree. and heck, lots of times food actually tastes significantly better when made without this “corn sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup”

  3. Jon Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.

    It is true that in many ways it is identical to cane sugar. The problem, however, lies in the way it is listed as an ingrediant. Many items that have HFCS also contain sugar. The nutritional info on the back of any food item will tell you exactly how much sugar you will consume, however for HFCS it simply says it is in the food, with no amount listed. So not only do you have no idea how much corn sugar you are eating, it many times is doubled with the traditional sugar already in place. If you listed it just like cane sugar then it would be fine.

  4. JohnnyD Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:12 a.m.

    More tactics to kill silently kill Americans. Nice.

  5. Wilma Wildcat Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:19 a.m.

    The sugar lobby has defamed and demonized every sweetener since saccharine. This one is no different. The sugar lobby are scum.

  6. Mark S. Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.

    If it isn’t bad for you, why are they trying to make the name more wholesome?

    And a recent study by Princeton did show that the newly named corn sugar induces obesity. It may chemically be the same as cane sugar, but your body recognizes the difference and processes it differently.

  7. CopperMom Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:29 a.m.

    Right… it’s natural and just the same. Here’s what they have to do get HFCS.

    High-fructose corn syrup is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup, which is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes that change most of the glucose into fructose. The enzyme process that changes the 100% glucose corn syrup into HFCS 90 is as follows:

    * Cornstarch is treated with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called oligosaccharides.

    * Glucoamylase – which is produced by Aspergillus, a fungus, in a fermentation vat — breaks the sugar chains down even further to yield the simple sugar glucose.

    * Xylose isomerase (aka glucose isomerase) converts glucose to a mixture of about 42% fructose and 50–52% glucose with some other sugars mixed in.

    While inexpensive alpha-amylase and glucoamylase are added directly to the slurry and used only once, the more costly xylose-isomerase is packed into columns and the sugar mixture is then passed over it, allowing it to be used repeatedly until it loses its activity. This 42–43% fructose glucose mixture is then subjected to a liquid chromatography step, where the fructose is enriched to about 90%. The 90% fructose is then back-blended with 42% fructose to achieve a 55% fructose final product. Most manufacturers use carbon absorption for impurity removal. Numerous filtration, ion-exchange and evaporation steps are also part of the overall process.

  8. Jim Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.

    So its an “urban Legend” and there is “no difference” between HCFS and cane sugar? They conveniently are ignoring the studies that show that HCFS suppresses leptin, and important chemical in our brains that tells us when we are full. This leads to more consumption, more sweetener, more obesity. Plus, I’m sorry, it tastes terrible. I used to love an occasional soda but I can’t stand the taste anymore of the same soda I had when I was a kid.

  9. houdini Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:41 a.m.

    Thanks, CopperMom. Now trying saying it in English.

  10. Doug Sep. 14, 2010 at 9:33 a.m.

    I heard “corm sugar” for the first time last week. My first thought: focus group.

  11. sonia Sep. 14, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.

    This is just their way of trying to confuse everyone. They will sneak it in and anyone who doesn’t know about this article or see it on the news will assume No HFCS is in their product and consume it.

    Bottom line, we need to quit eating and drinking “man made” foods.

  12. sonia Sep. 14, 2010 at 9:36 a.m.

    Jim, I agree. I have had soda in Mexico and it tastes better than the same soda here. Give me real sugar any day! Why do they now want to use real sugar? I would think it would be much less headache?

  13. Rob Sep. 14, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.

    And this recent news re fructose is equally troubling…

    “The American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola (KO.N) and Kraft Foods (KFT.N) have strongly, and successfully, opposed efforts to tax soda. [ID:nN12233126]

    The industry has also argued that sugar is sugar.

    Heaney said his team found otherwise. They grew pancreatic cancer cells in lab dishes and fed them both glucose and fructose.

    Tumor cells thrive on sugar but they used the fructose to proliferate. “Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” Heaney’s team wrote.”

  14. LP Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:27 a.m.

    Cane sugar is split equally in the stomach into fructose and sucrose. HFCS is around 55% fructose; cane sugar is 50% fructose, but is also sweeter, so less is used. The problem isn’t HFCS, it’s how much of people’s hydration they get from massively sugary drinks. If you replace all the HFCS in sodas and processed snacks with cane sugar, we won’t get any healthier. Have a glass of water or an apple. The best thing for the soft drink industry would be for people to believe the nonsense HFCS demonization, they can switch to sucrose and continue to get rich off people on extremely unhealthy diets.

    The pancreatic cancer study is interesting, but it is not in any way an indictment of the use of HFCS. Good news, though! As a consumer, you don’t need a tax to avoid HFCS. Feel free not to buy or consume it. Those of us who understand science and aren’t fooled by fear-mongering can continue to buy it and focus instead on consuming less sugar and fat of all types. And if you’re right and this is a big conspiracy, we’ll all die sooner, so you’ll have the last laugh.

  15. LP Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:29 a.m.

    Correction, first sentence should have said fructose and glucose, sorry.

  16. Nicholas Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

    I will not eat it no matter what it is called. I will not buy a product that contains it no matter what it is called.

  17. BadCorn Sep. 14, 2010 at 11:29 a.m.

    Well that’s nice. Whether they call it corn syrup or corn sugar makes no difference to me. I want it replaced with cane or beet sugar because I’m ALLERGIC to corn. I could eat so many more foods if corn syrup/sugar would just go away…

  18. SharonD Sep. 14, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.

    And cane sugar is oh-so much more “natural” than corn syrup? Apart from the many mechanical processes involved in making sugar (which technically could possibly occur in the desired sequence serendipitously in nature–but don’t), the use of a handful of chemicals (lime, sulphur dioxide, phosphoric acid, calcium hydroxide) in the refining process should be enough to frighten the very same people wringing their hands over HFCS. Oh, did I mention bone char (yes, that would be burnt animal bones) often used in making white sugar from cane?

    If you want dwell on how scary the production processes are instead of assessing the composition of the product you’re actually consuming, that’s certainly your choice, but it’s not the same as saying it’s a legitimate health concern.

  19. Matt Sep. 14, 2010 at 11:31 a.m.

    “Why do they now want to use real sugar? I would think it would be much less headache?”

    Because the United States has decided to bend over backwards to subsidize the corn industry/lobby, which has allowed the price of products made with it to plummet over the past couple decades. Look at virtually any product on a store shelf, and you are almost guaranteed to find corn in it. What people perceive as this broad choice in modern grocery stores really boils down to one or two things repackaged a million different ways (almost always artificially). The American public have basically been deemed to be nothing more than cattle, to be fattened up with cheap filler. Do your homework, eat REAL foods (not things created in a lab), and this becomes less of an issue.

  20. Obesity Sep. 14, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.

    The issue is one of negative consumer perceptions as opposed to good science providing a solid platform to make sound decisions.
    If you look objectively at the research data it’s clear that the vast majority of the reports show no negative metabolic difference between corn and beet/cane sugar.
    Unfortunately, the growth in consumption of corn sweeteners coincides with an increase in our sedentary lifestyle and so makes a convenient target for obesity.
    The issue is simple, calories in Vs calories out. If you burn more than you consume you lose weight, it you consume more than you burn you gain.
    Stop looking for excuses and take ownership for your decisions.

  21. Marty Sep. 14, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.

    HFCS is man made poison. I avoid it whenever I can.

  22. michala Sep. 14, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I found the study on pancreatic cancer when yet another person in my sphere died of it. Remember when Pres. Carter’s sister got it, and they said it was a rare cancer? I started asking what has changed since then, since the 70’s? HFCS being added to many, many products. I’ve been reading labels religiously, and I don’t buy it if any corn syrup is in it.

  23. John Doe Sep. 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Do we really expect our Government to have our best interests at heart? Nope, corn farmers want to re-brand their product because the words “high fructose corn syrup” is being linked to a HIGHLY CHEMICALLY PROCESSED CORN PRODUCT?
    Industry food makers respond to basic supply and demand, and most Americans have made the connection that HFCS is bad for you. The only reason HFCS has been used at all is because it’s the cheapest domestic product that, because of the heavy process it goes through, also works as a preservative. Yay!
    Don’t believe me? Just look up how HFCS is made and make sure it’s not a website backed by the Corn Refiners Association.
    If people want to buy into this crap, go right ahead. I will stay far away from anything that says CORN ANYTHING!

  24. HFCS4EVERYONE Sep. 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    You tree hugging pinko naturalists are completely misinformed about HFCS. Just eat it and STFU

  25. CGull Sep. 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Men’s Health Magazine has in the past run article after article, all backed up with the latest scientific and health research, that proves HFCS is far far worse for you than standard white sugar, and they still stand by that claim and will continue to stand by it regardless of what the stuff is called.

    So the Corn Refiner’s Association can call their product whatever they want, I will still avoid it whenever I can. Because I have enough trouble keeping my weight down right now without having HFCS screwing me up.

  26. CopperMom Sep. 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    For you naysayers who insist that HCFS is the same as sugar… how about a controlled study out of Princeton? Rats given water sweetened with HCFS compared to those given water sweetened with cane sugar. The ones given HCFS generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity. They’re not exactly sure why that happened yet, but considering that since HFCS was introduced into our daily diets, obesity levels in the U.S. have doubled from 1about 15% to over 30%.

  27. Mark S. Sep. 14, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Oh, BTW, in trying to eat healthier, I stopped using sugar in my tea and switched to blue agave syrup. Turns out this syrup is 80 % HFCS. My triglycerides skyrocketed.

  28. Raoul Markuson Sep. 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    “whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.”
    Maybe your stomach can’t tell the difference, but I’m guessing your pancreas can. Let’s ask the millions of new Diabetics. Where is the FDA?
    What do they know about corn syrup and diabetes? Have we been sold out again?

  29. Millie M. Sep. 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    HFCS is not “sugar”. Fructose is good for the body (fruits and vegetables all have some fructose naturally) it tells the pancreas when insulin is needed, and the natural order of things takes place. This makes you wonder what makes the fructose corn syrup “HIGH”. I don’t know, but what I do know is people who ingest HFCS in almost everything they eat, the pancreas gets lazy and then there’s a need for insulin, so almost everyone is subject to diabetes at a very early age; newborn babies are at risk because the mothers ingested HFCS daily, and it also causes obesity. This stuff is dangerous!!! Pharmacies love it, their sells of diabetic drugs has skyrocketed. If all they do is change the name of the “poison”, we are all still at risk.

    The FDA needs to do extensive research. I’m not sure exactly what they do, but a lot of things (drugs and food) advertised on TV have a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen that states something like “this product has not been tested by the FDA.”

  30. Consumer Freedom Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    It makes sense that the corn refiners would want to shy away from a name with so many negative connotations. Can you imagine if we called sugar that comes from beets “high fructose beet polysaccharide”? It sounds very weird and complex, but high fructose corn syrup has been saddled with an equally scientific-sounding name for years in the U.S. They already call the same sugar by other names overseas. Let’s call it what it is. The only reason it was called “high fructose” corn syrup in the first place is that is has slightly more fructose than plain “corn syrup”—the stuff you make pecan pie with. Since it’s not particularly “high” in fructose to begin with, why not call it “corn sugar”?

  31. Sammie Sep. 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    the whole “sugar is sugar” thing is nonsense. not all sugars are treated equally in our body. pure, biological fact. for example, lactose is a sugar found in milk, yet many, many people are naturally lactose intolerant. if a person can be intolerant of a naturally occurring sugar, who is to say how a body can truly handle a man-made sugar? nope sorry, I don’t care what they call it, in the end, it’s still HFCS subsidized by the gov’t. give me can sugar any time, especially turbinado sugar

  32. David Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    @ Mark S: Agave is not 80% HFCS, but is high in fructose.

  33. colin mason Sep. 15, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.

    Folks, corn-syrup. . . .High Fruc. Syrup is all the same just another fancy name to foul you with. Peroid! This Great Country of OURS would benefit so much more if WE, the People would bring back Sugar Cane Fields that would create many jobs for lots of people. . . .that is that are willinf to do real work and make a real living. Anyway, PureCane Sugar is Natural and More Healthy for the Human Body for it naturally passes through the digestive system rather than CLOG YOUR VIENS AND ARTIERS LIKE CORN SYRUP DOES!! THANKS ALOT CORN FARMERS. WANNA PAY FOR MY HEART TRANS-PLANT!!!!!!

  34. PrettyOld Sep. 15, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

    The FDA is a sad and sick government agency that can easily be bought. This deadly poison wants a new name and the FDA is considering it instead of OUTLAWING IT!
    This poison causes diabetes and heart disease and the makers ad FDA know it. A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes WITHOUT MEDICATION in now 10 countries and the FDA knows about it but they do not promote it to the people
    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

  35. kyle Sep. 15, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    a lot of bad information here, check out this article

  36. marie72 Sep. 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    YOU DO NOT FEEL FULL with HFCS. When i drink a Dubblins Dr. Pepper with Cane Sugar I can barely finish the bottle.I notice when my friend comes over with reg. Coke,I have to really watch it or I will drink it and drink it and never feel full.This is a FACT!
    Even my 16 year old daughter notices it.I give her a Pepsi Throwback with regular sugar,I notice that half the can is in the fridge. She says to me its hard to finish because i am full. Sugar is recognized by your body and does not get stored in your liver like HFCS does.Since body does NOT recognize HFCS and you continue to eat until your are over full!
    It is on a 20% decline! Hunts just removed it from its Ketchup and Gatorade is next!