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High-fructose corn syrup is not ‘corn sugar’

Consumer Reports News: March 09, 2011 08:08 AM

The Corn Refiners Association wants a name change for high-fructose corn syrup. It wants to be allowed to call the stuff “corn sugar” because, it says, that would help consumers understand where the sugar comes from. But that’s a bad idea, according to Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of technical policy at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports and this website.

“Such a change would confuse, if not mislead consumers to believe that ‘corn sugar’ was naturally occurring in corn and simply extracted as a sugar,” Rangan says. “This is misleading, since there are several chemical processing steps required, with consequent chemical changes that are not reflected in the term 'corn sugar.' ” A July 2007 Consumer Reports survey found that 83 percent of consumers don’t believe that products containing high-fructose corn syrup should be labeled as “natural.”  

Rangan recently wrote to the Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to deny the Corn Refiner Association's request. Other consumer groups, including the National Consumers League and the Consumer Federation of America, have taken similar action.

Bottom line: It’s still unclear whether high-fructose corn syrup is any riskier than other forms of added sugar. But all added sugars provide unnecessary, nutritionally empty calories. And high-fructose corn syrup is a particularly plentiful source of added sugars, found not only soft drinks and baked goods but also hiding in less obvious foods, such as ketchup, salad dressings, and yogurt. Changing the name to "corn sugar" might make some consumers think that it’s somehow a healthier or more natural choice.

You can curb your consumption of added sugars by cutting back on processed foods and scouring labels for other forms of added sugar: brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.

Ginger Skinner, Web associate editor

Read the whole truth about high-fructose corn syrup.

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