The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to allow manufacturers the option of using ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative name for high fructose corn syrup.” The trade group contends that the public is confused about what the sweetener is and that “‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from—corn.” According to an association press release, “Contrary to widespread consumer belief, high fructose corn syrup—a safe and affordable natural sweetener found in many popular products on grocery shelves—is not high in fructose when compared with other commonly used nutritive sweeteners, including table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates.”

Food industry critics immediately responded to news about the petition by claiming those who produce high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are less concerned about “epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and corn allergies” than they are about “a 20 year low in the sale of high fructose corn syrup and the impact it is having on the profitability of members of the Corn Refiners Association.” Food activist Robyn O’Brien, writing for Alternet.com, claims that those suggesting HFCS, “by any name, is the same as sugar is irresponsible,” and argues that adverse health effects “have become increasingly prevalent since its introduction twenty years ago.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has taken the position that sugar and HFCS “are nutritionally the same,” calls for people to consume less of all added sugars. CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson reacted to news about the corn association’s petition by stating, “I don’t know if ‘corn sugar’ is the best term to replace ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ because it sounds like the sugars come right out of the corn. Canada calls the ingredient glucose-fructose syrup; another option might be ‘chemically modified corn sweetener.’”

Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle, who also claims that, biochemically speaking, table sugar and HFCS are the same, was quoted as saying, “I’m not eager to help the corn refiners sell more of their stuff. But you have to feel sorry for them. High-fructose corn syrup is the new trans fat. Everyone thinks it’s poison and food companies are getting rid of it as fast as they can.” See Corn Refiners Association Press Release and The New York Times, September 14, 2010; Alternet.com and CSPI Statement, September 15, 2010.