The FDA are generally a toothless organization that basically go along with whatever Big Food and Big Pharma want to do. Very occasionally though they are forced to make a choice that puts someone’s nose out of joint. For the past couple of years there has been a war waging between the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association (CRA). At the heart of the issue is what constitutes sugar? The Sugar Association are adamant that only real sugar should qualify. The CRA meanwhile insist that the frankensugar known as HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) should be known as Corn Sugar.

At first glance the whole battle seems overblown. But it is not, it is a very serious issue. I followed the battle with interest. The FDA was placed in a spot they do not like. Two large and influential lobby groups were forcing the FDA to do something almost unheard of. Make a damn ruling!

The FDA has long been the golden parachute for Big Food and Big Pharma executives and now they were being asked to perform the impossible, pick sides! It didn’t matter which side they went with, they were going to piss someone off.

The CRA (Corn people) have been running a heavily funded TV ad campaign ‘Sugar is Sugar’. You can read an article about it here.

I still wonder why the CRA have disabled the ability to embed the video? But it is OK, The video link is here.

It looks convincing and sincere.

Yesterday I received an email, in part it read:

In the FDA’s letter to Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson announcing the decision, the agency rejected all three arguments made in the petition and found “the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.”

I wonder if the CRA will now be forced to remove the Sugar Is Sugar adverts, and maybe even forced to change some of the online propeganda sites they run?

The Press release was even better.


Sugar Association Commends FDA Commitment to Consumer Right to Know;
Regulators Affirm Changing HFCS Name Would Confuse Public

WASHINGTON (May 30, 2012) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today denied a Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petition to rename high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar,” saying the action would only serve to confuse U.S. consumers and could even pose a health risk to those suffering from fructose intolerance.

The FDA ruling, issued in a letter to Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson following 20 months of review, rejected all three arguments made in the CRA’s petition, which was filed on September 14, 2010. The CRA had asked the FDA to implement a name change after launching a multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign that argued that sugar and HFCS were identical.

Those actions set off more than a year of litigation initiated by U.S. sugar farmers and refiners, who are trying to stop the CRA’s campaign. That lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

“The FDA’s ruling represents a victory for American consumers,” said Dan Callister, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation. “It reaffirms what most consumer advocates, health experts and policy officials have been saying all along: only sugar is sugar. HFCS is not sugar. The next step is for the federal court to end the CRA’s misleading propaganda campaign.”

According to the FDA letter announcing its denial of the petition, “the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.”
Second, the FDA stated, “We are not persuaded by the arguments in the petition that consumers do not associate ‘corn sugar’ with dextrose.  The term ‘corn sugar’ has been used to describe dextrose for over 30 years.”

The FDA decision went on to say that granting the CRA petition could endanger consumer health. “Corn sugar has been known to be an allowed ingredient for individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, who have been advised to avoid ingredients that contain fructose,” Michael M. Landa, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the letter to Erickson. “Because such individuals have associated ‘corn sugar’ to be an acceptable ingredient to their health when ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ is not, changing the name for HFCS to ‘corn sugar’ could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.”

I will bet that Audrae Erikson and the rest of the CRA hoodlums are spending a miserable Friday. The news earlier in the week that New York is considering a ban on sodas larger than 16 oz is probably another contributing factor to the CRA not having a great day. Soda’s are one of the life bloods of HFCS.

This FDA ruling probably also has Monsanto with their knickers in a knot. HFCS is produced from corn grown from the companies genetically altered corn seeds.

It is a rare day that the FDA does anything marginally useful, so lets make the best of it!

Simon Barrett

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