Big Sugar is taking Big Corn to court over the name “corn sugar.” Representatives of U.S. sugar farmers and refiners claim that the corn industry’s use of the term constitutes false and misleading advertising. We agree that the name is confusing. But we also think that you should limit consumption of all added sugar, in any name or form.
The lawsuit comes after manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to change the ingredient’s name to “corn sugar” in 2010, and began promoting it as “corn sugar” in advertisements. They want to make the change largely because of the bad rep high-fructose corn syrup has received in recent years as being somehow less healthful than other forms of sugar, which has hurt its sales.
But sugar manufacturers argue that “corn sugar” is already the FDA-approved name of a corn-starch based sweetener; that advertising high fructose corn syrup as a natural sugar is false because it contains no naturally-occurring fructose; and that advertising the nutritional equivalence of sugar and high fructose corn syrup ignores the research suggesting possible health differences.
The corn industry, no surprise, takes issue with those complaints. And we don’t necessarily agree with all of them, either. Most importantly, while some research suggests high fructose corn syrup poses unique health risks, other research doesn't. Still, Consumers Union, publisher of this website, recently wrote the FDA to argue against the name change, mainly because sugar isn’t extracted from corn.
“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,” noted Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of technical policy at Consumers Union. “This is misleading, since there are several chemical processing steps required, with consequent chemical changes that are not reflected in the term ‘corn sugar.’” 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 sugar. But all sugars provide empty calories. Most Americans would do well to cut back on all added sugar, regardless of name. So scan ingredient labels for it’s various aliases and do your best to stay clear of them which includes corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.