Something very interesting is happening in the billion dollar sweetener industry that should have us paying even closer attention to those black-and-white nutrition labels on the back of our food packaging. The Corn Refiners Association (CFA) has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow them to change the name of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to the more user-friendly moniker, “corn sugar.”
To me, this move by the CFA to “sweeten” up the image of its wildly successful, but increasingly controversial, product is just another underhanded attempt to trick the American public into believing HFCS is a good alternative to traditional sugar and poses no unique health risks.
Countless independent health organizations and food activists say otherwise, stating that HFCS, which can sometimes contain mercury and is predominately derived from genetically modified corn, is linked to heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. These anti-HFCS campaigns have resulted in a 20-year low in the sweetener’s consumption and have driven many large food companies to remove the ingredient from their products. This steady decline in the use of HFCS has occurred even after the CFA sank considerable amounts of cash into massive television and print public relations campaigns designed to boost the image of its star product. (Watch one of the pro-HFCS commercials here, or check out the funny spoof below.)
Though I disagree with the request and hope that the FDA denies the name change, the fact that the CFA is so desperate to mask HFCS under another name is sort of a big win for savvy food consumers and activists everywhere. It shows that public opinion weighs heavily on corporate giants, and we now we have a Goliath of food producers backed into a corner.
The good news that comes out of all of this is that is shows consumers are reading labels and paying close attention to the foods we’re buying. In the long run, the FDA’s decision on the CFA’s petition may be inconsequential. Consumers looking for healthier options and more truth in labeling have already made their powerful presence known, and switching HFCS to “corn sugar” won’t make us place those boxed items in our cart.
Keep up the good work, my fellow foodies!
Rebekah “Bex” Borucki is a mother-of-three, a personal trainer, and an urban farming hobbyist raising backyard chickens and growing her own organic garden in a small urban space in Burlington County, New Jersey. You can find out more about Bex’ work and family on her website, BexLife.com.