A couple of weeks ago the Corn Refiners Association filed a petition with the FDA seeking permission to rename “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS). The CRA wants to use the term “corn sugar” on food labels rather than “high fructose corn syrup.”
HFCS, or whatever the industrial food complex decides to call it, is a by-product of processed corn. It is derived from the heavily taxpayer-subsidized corn that is grown mainly in the Midwest and is inedible by humans in unprocessed form. Because of the taxpayer subsidies the stuff is really cheap compared to cane or beet sugar. Because it is so cheap, beginning in the 1970s industrial food processors began substituting it for sugar in their products. Now it is ubiquitous in processed foods. It is difficult to find anything on the supermarket shelves that doesn’t include HFCS.
Many researchers attribute the epidemic of obesity in America to the consumption of HFCS, which interferes with normal metabolic functioning. And of course it keeps the cost of crappy food low, so Americans can pig out on it cheaply.
Some advocates of healthy food are actually in favor of the proposed name change. Their reasoning is that the term “corn sugar” may better alert consumers to the fact that what they’re getting is a sugar-like sweetener.
Of course that has nothing to do with why the CRA wants to make the change. Rather, it is just hoping to escape the growing public awareness of the dangers of HFCS. Thanks to advocates of healthy food and a growing national concern over the obesity epidemic, HFCS consumption is now at a 20 year low. Many industrial food processors are beginning to switch from HFCS to natural sugar in their junk food products. In a recent poll 58% of Americans polled said they believe HFCS is unhealthy.
It doesn’t seem likely to me that the CRA’s head-fake will accomplish much. In the short term it may bump sales until public awareness grows. But in the end, whether they call it HFCS or corn sugar, it is still the same nasty stuff that is helping destroy the health of America. And hopefully Americans will figure that out.