A Sweet Day for Sugar

June 1, 2012

By Ricardo Carvajal

FDA denied a citizen petition submitted by the Corn Refiners Association ("CRA") which asked FDA to authorize the use of “corn sugar” as a common or usual name for high fructose corn syrup ("HFCS"), and to amend certain regulations that reference “corn sugar” so as to eliminate those references or replace them with the term “dextrose.”  FDA based its denial on the following factors:

  • “FDA’s regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.” 
  • In a regulatory context, “[t]he term ‘corn sugar’ has been used to describe dextrose for over 30 years.”  Further, “corn sugar” is often used to describe dextrose in the scientific literature and on the internet. 
  • Using “corn sugar” as a name for HFCS could pose a risk to consumers with hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, who have come to understand that “corn sugar” (i.e., dextrose) is safe to eat, whereas HFCS is not.

The CRA promptly issued a press release stating that HFCS “is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars,” and that FDA’s denial did not challenge the fact “that the vast majority of consumers are confused about HFCS.”  The Sugar Association issued its own press release calling “[t]he FDA’s ruling a victory for American consumers,” and demanding that CRA end its “multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign that argued that sugar and HFCS were identical.”  As we noted in a prior posting, that campaign prompted a Lanham Act lawsuit by the Sugar Association that is still pending.