HFCS By Any Other Name Is Still The Same

Are you confused about high-fructose corn syrup? I didn’t think so. You know as well as I do that high-fructose corn syrup is bad news. You’ve seen the research, including the study from Princeton that found high-fructose corn syrup caused significantly higher obesity rates in lab animals compared to table sugar — even when the amount of calories from table sugar exceeded the calories from corn syrup. You aren’t confused about what you know.

But the Corn Refiners Association thinks you are confused — so confused, in fact, by the name “high-fructose corn syrup” that they actually petitioned the FDA this week to start calling the ingredient “corn sugar.”

You see, sales for high-fructose corn syrup are at a 20 year low. Food manufacturers are scrambling to pull the now demonized ingredient out of their foods and replace it with table sugar.

Their laughable marketing campaign last year, in which they aired commercials claiming that high-fructose corn syrup was “all natural” because it’s “made from corn,” backfired on them completely. Within a month dozens of spoofs were available on YouTube. People who hadn’t heard of any of the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup were now reading up them to understand what all the fuss was about.

So now that the public is actually choosing to not consume the ingredient, the Corn Refiners Association is pulling out all the stops. They’ve actually petitioned the FDA to allow them to re-name high-fructose corn syrup and call it “corn sugar” instead.

“The name is confusing, and consumers don’t understand that it has the same calories as sugar,” said Ms. Erickson, of the Corn Refiners’ Association. “They also think it’s sweeter tasting. That’s why the alternate name provides clarity for consumers when it comes to the ingredient composition and helps them better understand what’s in their foods.”

Hogwash.

We choose not to consume high-fructose corn syrup not because we’re “confused,” but because we actually know better. If anyone’s trying to confuse the public here, it’s the Corn Refiners Association. A new name? Seriously? So when facts and consumer sentiment are rightfully against them, they argue that they’re so misunderstood that it warrants a completely new name?

Obfuscation! Deception!

Dear Corn Refiners Association: We’re onto you.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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37 Responses to HFCS By Any Other Name Is Still The Same
  1. kelly
    September 15, 2010 | 9:00 pm

    I couldn’t agree more!!! We are HFCS free, artificial color/flavor free, no nitrites/nitrates, preservatives, etc. We also went gluten free for a year and are slowly adding fresh ground/soaked grains back in. I always read my labels cause they are always changing. Case in point: Breyers “all natural” ice cream now has HFCS!!!!! Seriously??? They do have a couple of flavors that do not, but the majority now do. Do you really expect me to believe that the insanely processed HFCS you have added is “natural.” So disappointing, but my own homemade ice cream is delicious and NO HFCS added. =0) Works for me.
    .-= kelly´s last blog post …ECC week 3 =-.

  2. charlieproy
    September 16, 2010 | 8:53 am

    Sinister I tell you. HFCS By Any Other Name Is Still The Same | Food Renegade: http://bit.ly/b6SPHF via @addthis

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Sp0on
    September 16, 2010 | 8:53 am

    Grr ~ RT @FoodRenegade Can you believe this? Corn Refiners ask FDA to re-name HFCS b/c consumers are “confused.” http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. docsconz
    September 16, 2010 | 8:54 am

    Shame! RT @FoodRenegade: Can you believe this? Corn Refiners ask FDA to re-name HFCS b/c consumers r “confused.” http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. IndyHealer
    September 16, 2010 | 8:54 am

    Such a scam. Bad is bad. RT @FoodRenegade: Corn Refiners ask FDA to rename HFCS b/c consumers are “confused.” http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. The Table of Promise
    September 16, 2010 | 8:55 am

    I believe that this too will fall flat for the NCA. I advocate highly for no HFCS and limited sugar and natural sweeteners as a total. I don’t think the public is going to eat more HFCS as a result of this move. However my concern with all this press (and I am sure the HOPE of The Sugar Associaton too) is that the message recieved by the people will be that natural sugar is okay or even healthful. That would be the greatest travisty in my opinion. I would be very saddened to see Coca Cola switch back to cane sugar and have another generation of people growing up thinking that it is okay to guzzle sodas and eat 120 pounds of sugar a year. Because the health effects of table sugar are almost as bad as HFCS and the politics are just as dirty.

    *Hopefully* we will see a reduction in all added sweeteners as a result of this continued media coverage. I love hearing your personal take on this issue.

  7. FoodRenegade
    September 16, 2010 | 9:07 am

    LOL!! RT @BrazenLady: I’m not confused….. I think they should rename it “GMO crap” that will clear up confusion http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. Heather
    September 16, 2010 | 9:36 am

    Hmm. So when the general public didn’t mind HFCS but health advocates were calling for regulations on it the corn growers said that the free market should decide. Now that the free market has decided, and decided against it, the free market is “confused” and regulations should be changed in favor of HFCS? Sounds like a bunch of kids throwing a tantrum to me.

  9. audrey
    September 16, 2010 | 10:08 am

    This is just one step away from them completely dropping corn out of the ingredient’s name. Mark my words, if this goes through it probably means they don’t even have to label it as corn sugar on labels! You don’t see labels currently differentiate between beet or cane sugar, why would they have to use the word corn?

  10. Jenn
    September 16, 2010 | 10:19 am

    Can I just say that I’m actually kind of encouraged by the fact that those “sweet surprise” ads backfired. Gives me faith in people’s intelligence.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog post …Kibbeh-Inspired Spice Rub =-.

  11. WordVixen
    September 16, 2010 | 1:16 pm

    Like Audrey, my main concern is that if the name was allowed that suddenly the Throwback and “Real Sugar!” drinks and condiments will silently switch over to “corn sugar”- but keep their new labeling because, hey, it’s sugar.

    The encouraging thing, though, is that they still seem to be using the same tone in this move that they used in their commercials last year. It’s that “aw, isn’t it cute that you’re an idiot?” tone that got so many people to pay attention.

    They may not be able to push it through, either, since apparently “corn sugar” is already taken by powdered dextrose that’s used by home brewers. At least, according to this thread: http://www.metafilter.com/95706/A-New-Name-For-Corn-Syrup where I’ve also seen some amusing alternative names for HFCS- “cob sauce” being the most innocent.
    .-= WordVixen´s last blog post …Fantasy Author League =-.

  12. Rachel Jones
    September 16, 2010 | 3:40 pm

    I was shopping a couple weeks ago and saw “corn sugar” in the ingredient list. I figured that is what had happened. It’s already out there!
    .-= Rachel Jones´s last blog post …Cinnamon Roll Bread =-.

  13. rachelscooking
    September 16, 2010 | 3:42 pm

    I was grocery shopping the other day and reading ingredients… “corn sugar” was one of them. I wondered if that… http://fb.me/JPAYIfTo

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  14. joshua
    September 16, 2010 | 5:09 pm

    Since Obama’s appointed food saftey czar (michael taylor) has been in and out of Monsanto, I’m sure there will be fewer obstacles to this change than we would like.

  15. kitchenstew
    September 16, 2010 | 10:01 pm

    So…got any “corn sugar” around? @FoodRenegade dishes out the #realfood truth! http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. WardehHarmon
    September 16, 2010 | 10:37 pm

    @kitchenstew So…got any “corn sugar” around? @FoodRenegade dishes out the #realfood truth! http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. Sarah Kirkell
    September 17, 2010 | 8:11 am

    It’s amazing what lengths these companies will go to keep HFCS in our diets. In their most recent issue, EatingWell did a story on busting nutrition myths and their main highlight (including several sidebars) was discussing HFCS and how it was the same as sugar. They do say all sugar additives are bad, but they otherwise basically support the recent HFCS campaign. (I wrote them and got a response, which I posted and discussed on my blog).

  18. Lisa Cimperman RD
    September 17, 2010 | 8:56 am

    Actually many people are confused about HFCS. The Princeton study is one such example of how this is perpetuated – the study was done in about 20 lab rats. The results were inconsistant and confusingly reported. To make such a conclusion as “HFCS causes significantly higher rates of obesity” is overstating the actual results. Making the leap from this rat study to human consumption and obesity is absurd. We know why Americans are fat – many eat too much of ALL food sources and move too little. Whether you get your extra calories from cane sugar, honey, HFCS, pasta, or butter, you will see extra pounds around your waistline. Removing one ingredient does nothing to improve the quality of your diet. It is our diet as a whole and total lifestyle that determines our risk of becoming obese or developing chronic disease. The point of requesting an alternate name for HFCS is to more accurately describe the product – a sugar made from corn. It has the same sweetness, caloric value, and is metabolized via the same pathways as other caloric sweeteners. No one is encouraging excess sweetener consumption from any source, but it is about time that we stop using HFCS as a nutritional scapegoat and focus on real solutions to battle obesity, such as increasing fruit and vegetable intake, reducing processed foods, and increasing activity.

    Lisa Cimperman MS, RD, LD
    Clinical Dietitian
    Consultant to CRA

    • KristenM
      September 17, 2010 | 10:02 am

      One thing you’re omitting in your analysis is that the study in rats was one of the first (if not the only) study which actually compared HFCS directly to table sugar. Plus, we don’t actually know that it’s metabolized via the same pathways as other caloric sweeteners. In fact, most of the evidence points otherwise. In the Princeton study, they theorized that the reason the rats fed HFCS gained more weight was because the fructose in HFCS is chemically unbound, and thus more freely available to the body.

    • Heather
      September 17, 2010 | 1:28 pm

      I was wondering when the CRA was going to weigh in. Thing is, people aren’t as confused as you are trying to make them out to be. Consumers don’t like being called stupid. The corn industry already has a huge advantage due to incredible government subsidies and tax advantages over imported sugar. Despite this, the free market has said they don’t want your product. Your sweet surprise website and ads backfired. Don’t try to tell us that the general public is so stupid that this name change will work.

      If you want to regain market share produce a product that isn’t genetically modified and processed to hell. Until then, stop treating the consumer like they’re too dumb to make decisions for themselves. I guarentee you that the backlash will only get worse if you continue.

    • WordVixen
      September 20, 2010 | 2:24 am

      I’m sorry ma’am, but if there is indeed any confusion over HFCS, it is not over whether or not it contains the same calories as sugar (real sugar). Calories really don’t mean a lot to people who care about their health. People who care about their health don’t want food-like substances, they want food. Most of us avoid artificial (no calorie) sweeteners as well, so the calorie argument really means nothing to most of us that care about this issue.

      Because of the research that I’ve done on HFCS, I am convinced that it is NOT metabolized the same as real sugar is simply because at no point is the fructose bonded to the glucose. Because of my research, I also no longer drink beverages that list “fructose” as a sweetener. I have seen bags of fructose in a local health food store, and I shudder whenever I pass that section, because now I know the damage it can do to my body that normal sucrose won’t. According to your theory, I could buy a bag of fructose and a bottle of corn syrup and mix up my own HFCS to use instead of sugar, honey, or maple syrup and it would all be the same in my body. But I know better than that.

      Because of the research that I’ve done, ma’am, I have cut HFCS entirely out of my diet (except when dining out, but as I only order water with lemon for a drink, the hfcs is only in the bun and the ketchup).

      But ma’am, there is one thing that spurred me on to do the research that I’ve done, and that one thing was the foolishly conceived and poorly executed commercials that were put out last year. You see, I didn’t really care about HFCS one way or the other at the time. I knew the dangers- oh yes, I did know them, but I didn’t care. Until those idiotic commercials came out. Did the CRA realize that we’d just come out of a presidential election? That our bullshit meters were still set to super-sensitive? That everyone who knows what is wrong with HFCS would immediately forget what they knew? No ma’am, I didn’t care UNTIL those commercials came out. But I care now, and I’ve been spreading the word and will continue to do so.

      I don’t wish you or anyone else who works for the CRA to be out of work or have to find a job in another area of the industry, but, no offense, I’m not going to be trying to support your business either.
      .-= WordVixen´s last blog post …Fantasy Author League =-.

  19. Lee
    September 17, 2010 | 9:18 am

    Eschew obfuscation!!

  20. mundanemagic
    September 17, 2010 | 9:59 am

    Reading @foodrenegade HFCS By Any Other Name Is Still The Same http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  21. Studio222LV
    September 17, 2010 | 10:01 am

    But the Corn Refiners Association thinks you are confused — so
    confused, in fact, by the name “high-fructose corn… http://fb.me/H3OcAVY9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  22. Memama
    September 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    processed Sugar is Sugar is Sugar is Sugar….corn, beet, cane…it’s all bad, it’s all going to make us fat and damage our immune system.

    • KristenM
      September 17, 2010 | 10:14 am

      I agree completely!

  23. Mommaofmany
    September 17, 2010 | 10:32 am

    At all costs, Lee, at ALL costs!

  24. GraciousPantry
    September 17, 2010 | 11:23 am

    If you are concerned about what goes into your food, read this article. As consumers, we need to stay on top of… http://fb.me/t7qtdKZx

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  25. HomeEconHowTo
    September 17, 2010 | 1:34 pm

    Calling us stupid RT @FoodRenegade OF COURSE the Corn Refiners Association had to weigh in…. http://tinyurl.com/2aqe3gn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  26. Sarah Kirkell
    September 17, 2010 | 1:50 pm

    At least she was kind enough to tell us exactly who she works for.
    .-= Sarah Kirkell´s last blog post …Squash Soul Soup! =-.

  27. healthyschools
    September 17, 2010 | 3:10 pm

    HFCS By Any Other Name Is Still… http://ow.ly/2FJax h/t @foodrenegade

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  28. Walter Jeffries
    September 23, 2010 | 9:45 am

    Want blisters on your brain? I read somewhere of someone comparing HFCS to Maple Syrup saying that both are processed and essentially the same thing. No. Simply, no.

    • KristenM
      September 23, 2010 | 9:50 am

      I know, right? I could (theoretically) make maple syrup in my kitchen if I had maple trees and collected sap. I could not make HFCS in my kitchen if I grew corn.

  29. FreshGreenKim
    September 27, 2010 | 7:17 am

    Over a year ago, I had an email exchange with Ms. Erickson of the Corn Refiners. At that time, I asked pointedly why I wasn’t able to use the food substance formerly known as HFCS in my own home cooking. Our email exchange ceased. I never got a reply. So, a year and one name change later, I am issuing a challenge. I would love if you could promote this challenge to your readers. I want the manufacturers (sad that we aren’t calling them FARMERS!) of CORN SUGAR to send me a sample and recipe for me to test this “wonderful same as sugar product” in my own kitchen.

    (is that the sound of crickets? rather silent so far)
    http://ourdailygreenlife.blogspot.com/2010/09/smackdown-green.html
    .-= FreshGreenKim´s last blog post …Smackdown Green =-.

  30. Hilary
    September 7, 2013 | 8:54 pm

    Honestly, the Corn Refiners Assoc. Would be better off spending their time & money figuring out how to use the HFCS to run cars and anything gas-powered than to keep beating a dead horse (the average consumer) with pretensious ads trying to say we are confused and a name change to corn sugar will fix the “truth” of ALL the myriad of health problems it has caused …my best friend is so allergic to corn AND its byproducts, she can develop large boils on her body after having an ear of corn or anything with HFCS in it….she has to watch everything, including toothpaste, body powders and even frozen vegetables which has a dusting of corn meal to keep food. From sticking together in the bags….sshheesh!…but I’m certain they won’t look into that kind of research because it would interred with petrochemical interests and that’s not good too rock that boat.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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