FDA Says High Fructose Corn Syrup Can't Change Its Name or Dye Its Hair Blond to Avoid Being Recognized

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put the kibosh on a plan to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. While the words corn sugar don't exactly ring in the air like fairy bells, the fine folks at the Corn Refiners Association are understandably eager to get out from under the bad publicity that their signature product has garnered recently

The Sugar Association has decided to keep the debate about who gets to use the word sugar classy and civil. Just kidding, they're suing the pants off the Corn Refiners Association and saying stuff like this in the press:

Dan Callister, a lawyer for the Sugar Association, said the FDA's decision confirms his group's position that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are two distinct products.

"What's going on here is basically a con game to suggest otherwise," Callister said. "What do con men do? They normally try to change their name. The FDA has thankfully stopped that."

The FDA denied the petition for a name change on technical grounds. Officially, the term sugar means what most people think it means: something dry and crystallized, not liquid.

But why are the anger and namecalling? Maybe it's because the Big Sugar folks know the line that separates them from high fructose corn syrup is very, very thin.

In fact, even the biggest food scolds out there, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Marion Nestle, have gone out of their way to note that—nutritionally speaking—the really isn't much difference between sugar and corn syrup. 

The movement to blame high fructose corn syrup for American obesity actually sprung from a misunderstanding. Both table sugar and corn syrup are about half glucose and half fructose. Corn syrup has a little more fructose (55 percent to table sugar's 50 percent), thus the name.

And fructose, by itself, does indeed seem to have negative health consequences. But in a 2009 story in the London Times, someone confused scientific findings about pure fructose with the possible effects of high fructose corn syrup (remember, half glucose). The error was repeated over and over, and the next thing you know high fructose corn syrup is now blamed for every kid's fat butt and every adult's lumpy thighs.

High fructose corn syrup is everywhere because it's cheap. It's cheap because it's protected from competition and subsidized up the wazoo by, well, you. But the sugar people should probably clamber down from their high horses; their product is just as unhealthy (and just as delicious!) and they receive some pretty unsavory supports and subsidies of their own.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John||

    How about we just stop subsidizing corn and allow sugar imports?

  • fried wylie||

    Why do you hate America's Family Farms?

  • John||

    I just hate America, what can I say?

  • fried wylie||

    Join the club. We have jackets.

  • robc||

    Central Americans are a type of Americans.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    How about we just stop subsidizing corn anything and allow sugar imports?

    FIFY

  • Brett L||

    But [$PRODUCT] has always been made in America by family farms (actually giant megacorps)!

  • Bee Tagger||

    I believe your code has run into an infinite loop.

  • niobiumstudio||

    This infinite loop better describes our situation :-)

    while( $x ) {
    if( $product == "Made in U.S.A." )
    {
    $subsidies += $years * ( $subsidies * 1.1 );
    echo "Need moar subsidies.";
    }
    else {
    echo "Fuck you and your foreign shitty products.";
    }
    $years++;
    }

  • Ted S.||

    Did you remember to declare your variables like a good little programmer? ;-)

  • Pi Guy||

    I'm sure he declared them globally. That way they never go out of scope.

    Hmmmm... I never thought of "Buy American!" as a memory leak but it kinda makes sense.

  • Pi Guy||

    and the next think you know

    Do I detect a little Baltimoron in that accent?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Everybody knows Michelle Obama is in the back pocket of Big Aspartame.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    I dunno, I think "sugar" is more widely condemned than "high fructose corn syrup" by those who don't keep up to date on the latest health "news."
    I'd almost expect the sugar industry to be looking for other terms to obfuscate the name of their product.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Damn, you would think I wrote this. Except it's well-written, of course!

    Maybe it's because the Big Sugar folks know the line that separates them from high fructose corn syrup is very, very thin.

    Yep! Amazing the difference a single ester bond can make... when it's politically convenient.

    The FDA denied the petition for a name change on technical grounds. Officially, the term sugar means what most people think it means: something dry and crystallized, not liquid.

    Hang on! Does that mean if they melt it or dissolve it, they can't call it sugar any more?

  • Brett L||

    Yeah. I don't think of sugars that way at all.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Pure, White and Deadly (Yudkin, 1972)?

  • Brett L||

    No. More about whether they are mono-, di- or polysaccharide and how many carbons and what conformation each monomer has. For example, if you replace the fructose in sucrose with a glucose you get cellobiose, which is the dimer of the polymer cellulose. There are hundreds of mono- and disaccharides (all referred to as sugars) and their melting point and solubility are not how I divide them.

  • wareagle||

    so Big Sugar is pissed at Big Corn and is willing to use Big Nanny in order to get its way. In other words, it's another day in America.

    Meanwhile in New York, Hizzoner is ready to outlaw giant-sized sodas, because people are too stupid to make their own choices.

  • Reformed Republican||

    Meanwhile in New York, Hizzoner is ready to outlaw giant-sized sodas, because people are too stupid to make their own choiceshe is a goddamn control freak.

  • wareagle||

    isn't that what I said?

  • ||

    And too stupid to buy two bottles.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Bravo, sir!

  • SIV||

    The ban on big cokes will actually kill some people when they die from dehydration.

  • Proprietist||

    No posting about New York City about to ban large sodas yet?

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/31/.....?hpt=hp_t1

    Ridiculous...

  • Bee Tagger||

    So now you have to refer to them as large pops? The sound of "yinz" with a new york accent sends shivers down my spine.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Yeah, like I can't get a refill or buy two. Or just buy it at a grocery store and carry a 2 liter in my backpack.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Be sure to hold the ice from now on.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Carrying a 2L bottle in a backpack, a cup of ice is all that's needed, right? What do you want to bet they note all the cups of ice people start buying and declare victory?

  • Mo' $parky||

    No posting except the one in AM Links.

  • ||

    The movement to blame high fructose corn syrup for American obesity actually sprung from a misunderstanding.

    I thought some Canadian started it.

  • ||

    But the real question here is: Does the curtain match the drapes?

  • fried wylie||

    i doubt that either sugar or HFCS make good materials for curtains, drapes, or carpets.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Actually, they are using corn and corn-based-plastics to make curtains, drapes, AND carpets - among many, many other things :-)

  • ||

    Grrr. Joke FAIL and Joke PWN'D!

  • fried wylie||

    cellulose and cellulose-derived products are not sugar/sugar-related.

    but yeah, they do come from the same plant, so it's all the same, right?

  • Peter L||

    Actually, it would not be hard to make synthetic fibers from sugar. Like rayon.

    People don't do it much cause there are better things to do with sugar (like ferment it), lately people are trying to convert the other way: fibers to sugars.

  • Brett L||

    Technically, cellulose is a polymer whose base unit is glucose, so it is a polysaccharide, but we usually don't talk about it as a sugar, even though its just as much a sugar polymer (though far more strucutred) as the corn starch that gets made into corn syrup.

  • ||

    True Brett; however, let's not forget that certain species of termites and ruminants can break down and utilize cellulose as a nutrient in precisely the way other sugars can be metabolized and absorbed by proxy of unicellular organisms such as: Fibrobacter succinogenes, Ruminococcus flavifaciens, and Lactobacillus ruminis.

    More on cellulose.

  • JW||

    It's cheap because it's protected from competition and subsidized up the wazoo by, well, you.

    Since when has a product with few competitors ever been cheap?

    It's cheap relative to sugar, which *is* protected from foreign competition.

  • Rasilio||

    When it is an easily replaced commodity with essentially no barriers to entry. The only thing stopping new players from entering the market is the very low profit margins being earned by the current one or ones therefore any attempt by existing producers to capitalize on their existing dominance of that product and raise prices will merely result in new competition entering the field therefore prices remain low even with limited or even no compeition.

  • kinnath||

    I remember when the food-nannies said that refined sugar (aka sucrose) was evil and consuming sucrose was like dumping nitro into an engine. We were all encouraged to use honey instead of sucrose for everything (even though it really fucks up baked goods).

    As it turns out honey is roughly 55% fructose and 45% glucose (the ratio changes from one honey variety to the other) which means that HFCS is basically an artificialy honey.

  • SIV||

    As our vegan friends remind us; honey is manufactured by ENSLAVED BEES!

  • kinnath||

    Yes. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Have you not seen Bee Movie, they don't have it so easy! Cut the vegans some slack - sometimes it's easy to confuse Dreamworks with Documentary.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I can imagine a beekeeper with a tiny, tiny whip.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    I can imagine a beekeeper with a tiny, tiny whip.

    Black high-heel leather boots and a mask as well.

  • T||

    What are you doing in my subconscious?

  • Brett L||

    I dated a beekeeper for a while. She could be a slave-driver about getting what she wanted. No masks or whips, though. :(

  • fried wylie||

    Black-and-yellow-striped high-heel leather boots

    ftfy.

  • Espantapajaros||

    "Both table sugar and corn syrup are about half glucose and half fructose. "

    Not exactly. Corn syrup is half glucose and half fructose. Sucrose is glucose and fructose tied together with an ether bond. Sucrose is initially metabolized with sucrase; HFCS skips that step.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Sucrose is initially metabolized with sucrase; HFCS skips that step.

    While true, the difference is biologically insignificant. And all the sucrose is hydrolysed in seconds. Whether you drink a regular Mountain Dew (with HFCS) or a Mountain Dew Throwback (with cane sugar) the effects on the body are identical.

  • Rasilio||

    Yeah but the Throwback tastes better (and yes I can notice a subtle difference in taste between the two)

  • Peter L||

    Yeah, but the Throwback tastes better (and yes, I can notice a difference in the taste between the two).

    Bah, Rasilio, you stile the words from my mouth.

  • Peter L||

    Ack, should be stole. Darn spelling.

  • fish||

    ....the words corn sugar don't exactly ring in the air like fairy bells

    Certainly not as nice as corn liquor!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I saw something on the Food Network featuring a diner that served pulled pork pancakes with Jack Daniels syrup. Is that the corn liquor to which you refer?

  • fish||

    ....pulled pork pancakes

    I understand the meaning of all those words....just not when arranged lie that!

  • Pro Libertate||

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    It's weird, but I confess that I want to try it. The customers all seemed love it, while acknowledging its strangeness. The pancakes looked great, and the syrup sounds awesome. Not like I don't love pulled pork, too.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It doesn't seem that weird to me. Bacon has long been renown for going with pancakes.

    And pretty much everything else.

  • T||

    My dad used to make waffles with bacon in them.

    I should try that, but as I'm trying go paleo, I don't think waffles are the menu anymore.

  • Silver Fox||

    So it'll be bacon with bacon then?

  • ||

    Sausages with bacon in them.

  • Silver Fox||

    Sounds yummy.

  • robc||

    Waffles arent so bad, its the syrup that is carb laden (assuming that is the reason for the paleoness).

    My homemade waffles are 19g carbs each. Not low, by any means, but not insane either.

  • Proprietist||

    Me too. Started with that article the other day. Except I had a huge energy crash yesterday which I hear referred to as "carb flu." I've never caved in to a diet so fast (had been a vegan for four years cold turkey) - now I'm trying to ease into paleo with two paleo meals and one regular/carb meal a day. Will try to ease the latter out as my body adapts to the carb limitation better.

  • robc||

    Ive cut to 150g carbs per day, except on weekends when I dont track.

    Not exactly paleo or atkins, but Ive noticed the difference, both in weight loss and feeling good.

    Also, been exercising regularly, so the carbs are getting put to use.

    What I like is that I think I can long term maintain something around 150g carbs (especially with weekends off). Im not good at extreme changes.

  • Proprietist||

    As a very skinny dude, my long-term concern with the paleo diet is that my metabolism is so fast that if I stop ingesting carbs as my previous rate, it will slow down. Then when I went back to carbs, I'd start putting on bad weight.

  • fried wylie||

    vegan for four years cold turkey

    turkey? you were doing it wrong.

  • Silver Fox||

    now I'm trying to ease into paleo with two paleo meals and one regular/carb meal a day. Will try to ease the latter out as my body adapts to the carb limitation better.

    I never thought about that.

    I think I'll add a frozen waffle or two to brekkie until I run out of them as an ease-in.

    Interesting.

  • Proprietist||

    I was thinking that the ideal diet would be a hearty breakfast with carbs, eggs, and red meat protein, a Mediterranean or Asian-style light lunch with little rice or a small amount of bread to get you through the afternoon, and a purely paleo dinner with chicken or fish. Concept being it's a great idea to get your carbs as early in the day as possible, and a bad idea to get them right before you go to sleep. I'm thinking a pure paleo diet was great for people who sleep 10+ hours a night like they believe cavemen used to, thus would easily replenish energy because they were well-rested. But those of us with 6 hours or less of sleep need some carbs to get and keep us going and not crash in the middle of our workdays (which is what happened to me yesterday).

  • Pro Libertate||

    True. I love bacon with pancakes. Preferably blueberry pancakes. With hot maple syrup and deadly butter.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I found the video of the pulled-pork pancakes and posted it. The restaurant is in Vancouver, believe it or not.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    Sucrose is initially metabolized with sucrase; HFCS skips that step.

    Isn't that why they say HFCS is so bad for you, it metabolizes differently in the body than sugar? I have no idea, just asking the question.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Isn't that why they say HFCS is so bad for you, it metabolizes differently in the body than sugar?

    No. The difference between HFCS and sucrose (table sugar) is sucrose has the fructose and glucose connected with an ester bond. The gut pops lose that bond instantly. The glucose quickly enters the blood stream to raise the blood sugar and the fructose is sent to the liver to be processed as a hepatic poison.

  • ||

    So is it at all possible that the process that pops that bond loose is important and the HFCS haters have a point? (I'm an engineer, not a biologist and I'm just curious.)

  • Brett L||

    Not really. The deal is that glucose and fructose are metabolized by different parts of the body, but (as I understand it) trigger the same insulin response. Most of your body only burns the right handed molecule (glucose) while the liver has to metabolize the left handed molecule. Dropping pure fructose on your body regularly would throw it out of whack because fructose pretty much doesn't occur by itself in nature. HFCS, Honey, sugar and others are some mixture of left handed and right handed six carbon sugars. They probably aren't bad for you except that they trigger an insulin response and metabolize quickly.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Glucose is a 6-member ring. Fructose is a 5-member ring.

    The human body does not have receptors for fructose. It's treated as a hepatic poison, rather like alcohol, and with many of the same effects, including fatty liver disease.

  • Silver Fox||

    The human body does not have receptors for fructose. It's treated as a hepatic poison, rather like alcohol, and with many of the same effects, including fatty liver disease.

    So fruit is bad for us?

    [I'm getting a very interesting education today on HnR.]

  • ||

    So fruit is bad for us?

    No. Though what PHOD is saying is true in terms of lack of discrete receptor sites for direct use of fructose, the claim that the body does not utilize fructose, and therefore a "poison" is not entirely accurate. The fructose is eventually converted to glycogen, which is a complex carb (in plants you would call this "starch") and stored in the liver and released into the bloodstream under the direct activation of glucagon, hormone also produced by the pancreas (secreted by alpha cells. Insulin is secreted by beta cells.)

    More on glycolysis and the major metabolic pathways.

  • Silver Fox||

    Ah OK.

    So I can go get some apples or berries or something to go with the yogurt I got.

  • ||

    So I can go get some apples or berries or something to go with the yogurt I got.

    Sure. I would suggest it, provided there are no conditions where such choices would be contraindicated, like a food allergy. And don't skin the apples, fibre is good for the colon.

  • ||

    Sucrose has a fructose ring in it.

  • Peter L||

    Fructose is common in fruits.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    Thanks for the replies. So what is the issue with it then? Why is it bad for you?

  • robc||

    Its 55% fructose, that is why it is bad for you.

    Sugar is 50% fructose, which means its only 91% as bad as HFCS.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Sarcasm?

    Freely available glucose is also bad for you. It raises your blood sugar.

  • ||

    Yes, which causes the release of insulin to regulate this. Increasing activity also helps to lower it. HFCS in of itself is not a poison.

  • ||

    Sugar is 50% fructose, which means its only 91% as bad as HFCS.

    It looks to me like Sugar is two Fructose molecules linked together...maybe a Fructose and a glucose linked.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucrose

    And I am fairly certain when your body metabolizes it becomes fructose.

  • Brett L||

    Objectively, HFCS isn't any worse for you than sugar or honey.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Correct. They are all bad for you.

  • ||

    Not true. As with any chemical or medication, it's dose dependent. They are not "bad" for you; however, an OD on this stuff is, which is what you are describing here.

    Moderation, moderation, moderation.

  • Keith3D||

    and by "OD" you mean to consume the amount typically put in american foods?

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    As our vegan friends remind us; honey is manufactured by ENSLAVED BEES!

    Hahahaha! I never heard that. Too funny.

    But they feel good about enslaving trees and murdering entire fields of grass to eat their babies?

    Hey, if "all life is precious," it is, or it ain't.

  • kinnath||

    Vegans do avoid honey because it exploits bees.

  • T||

    Vegans do avoid honey because it exploits bees they're insane.

  • Silver Fox||

    Truth.

  • Proprietist||

    If you're into veganism for animal rights, it is kinda dickish to take the fruit of the honeybee's labor and kill lots of bees while doing it.

    I didn't care much about the animal rights issue and was doing it purely for self-discipline, but still didn't eat honey.

  • kinnath||

    I have a vegan friend that makes a "cheese" spread using a paste made from ground almonds -- it's actually very good. I haven't felt mean enough to tell her that almonds require bees for fertilization, and almond growers pay beekeepers lots of money to haul in hundreds of hives on flatbed trailers during the bloom.

  • Ska||

    When you're 100% sure you can't sleep with her, you'll tell her, right? ;)

  • kinnath||

    I'm married, she's married, that has never been an option (or even occurred to me).

  • fried wylie||

    CYA

  • Brandon||

    Are you ever really 100% sure?

  • kinnath||

    Yes. re: Michelle Obama.

  • ||

    Don't tell he apples, cherries, oranges, apricots, plums and peaches also involve the "enslavement" of bees for pollination.

  • E||

    I think the article missed a few fine points. Corn syrup is also called glucose syrup and has little to no fructose. Also high fructose corn syrup isn't one universal product. Three common grades of HFCS are either 42, 55 or 90% fructose. Odds are your bread used the 42% fructose HFCS and thus has less fructose than the 'real' sugar option.

  • fried wylie||

    If mixed with sugar, water and cream of tartar it can be used to make sugar glass.

    *added to grocery list*

  • ||

    Is corn syrup chemically different that refined cane sugar or what ever sugar beat sugar is?

  • kinnath||

    yes

  • ||

    Looked it up. Sucrose has a glucose and a fructose linked.

    HFCS has just fructose.

  • ||

    beet

  • cath||

    I'm so happy with the FDA decision. Changing the name is not the answer. However, I wish FDA threaten those companies using HFCS in their products. You can read more info about HFCS here - http://articles.mercola.com/si.....olism.aspx

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement