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The Food and Drug Administration has denied a Corn Refiners Association petition to rename high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar,” saying the action would only serve to confuse U.S. consumers and could even pose a health risk to those suffering from fructose intolerance.
The FDA ruling, issued in a letter to CRA President Audrae Erickson following 20 months of review, rejected all three arguments made in the CRA’s petition, filed in September 2010. The CRA had asked the FDA to implement a name change after launching a multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaign that argued that sugar and HFCS were identical.
Those actions set off more than a year of litigation initiated by U.S. sugar farmers and refiners, who are trying to stop the CRA’s campaign. That lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Erickson said the FDA “denied our petition to use the term corn sugar to describe high-fructose corn syrup on narrow, technical grounds. They did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high-fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.”
Erickson said a “vast majority” of American consumers are confused about HFCS. “Consumers have the right to know what is in their foods and beverages in simple, clear language that enables them to make well-informed dietary decisions,” Erickson said. “In light of the FDA’s technical decision, it is important to note that the agency continues to consider HFCS as a form of added sugar, and requires that it be identified to consumers in the category of sugars on the Nutrition Facts panel on foods and beverages.”
Consumer groups hailed the FDA's ruling. "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. “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, Consumer Federation of America and Shape Up America — signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in April asking that the agency reject CRA's proposed name change.
In one of its latest efforts to support its position to retailers and consumers, CRA is sponsoring Trends in US Product Claims (2002-2011), the latest in Progressive Grocer’s series of free webcasts.
Mintel’s Lynn Dornblaser will present data on “low/no/reduced fat” and “low/no/reduced sugar” products over the past decade, showing that claims of “no HFCS” in 2011 product launches were lower than many might expect. The discussion aims to put the “no HFCS” claim into clearer perspective and will include insights regarding the claims by product types, company, brands and launch type.
Register and learn more about this webcast at PG’s website.