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Truth, transparency in food labeling

September 27, 2010

Corn Refiners Association recently petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow manufacturers the option of using the label “corn sugar” as an alternative name for high fructose corn syrup. The CRA’s petition hopes to clarify the labeling of food products for consumers.

(photo from forestryimages.org)

In a press release, Audrae Erickson, CRA President wrote, “Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them. The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from—corn.”

High fructose corn syrup – a natural, safe sweetener that is found in many items – is not high in fructose compared to other commonly-used sweeteners including honey and fruit juice concentrates, table sugar, and nutritive sweeteners. Like table sugar, corn sugar is roughly half glucose and half fructose and is metabolized by the body in the same way as regular table sugar. In fact, the high fructose corn syrup that is used in many foods, such as baked goods, is lower in fructose than table sugar.

Independent research indicates that the current labeling is confusing to consumers. For example, research indicated that despite the fact that high fructose corn syrup and table sugar contain approximately the same amount of fructose, nearly 58 percent of respondents believed high fructose corn syrup has more fructose than other table sugar. Corn sugar – or high fructose corn syrup – has been used for more than 40 years to enhance flavors in foods and beverages and maintain freshness.

Many facts about high fructose corn syrup are straightforward; in a December 2008 report, the American Dietetic Association confirmed that high fructose corn syrup is “nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar)” and that the sweeteners contain the same number of calories per gram. The ADA found that “once absorbed into the bloodstream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”

Also, in light of America’s “obesity epidemic,” well-renowned nutritionists question whether sweetener confusion could lead consumers to make misinformed decisions about sugars in their diets. Registered Dietitian Carolyn O’Neil wrote, “The last thing we want is for Americans to think that avoiding high fructose corn syrup is the answer. All added sugars should be consumed in moderation – corn sugar, table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates. These sugars contain an equal number of calories that must be burned off– or the body will convert them to fat.”

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States

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