With the Corn Refiners Association currently in court, locked in battle against myriad sugar producers and trade associations over the right to describe high fructose corn syrup as totally natural and no different from other sugars, the great HFCS controversy is at a fever pitch. The stakes are high, as the corn industry is lobbying for the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to use the more benign term “corn sugar” instead of high fructose corn syrup on ingredient labels. But documents uncovered by the Associated Press prove that, even if the courts rule in their favor over their ad campaign, the Corn Refiners Association could still have a hard time winning any arguments with the FDA.
According to an exclusive report by AP journalist Thomas Watkins, the Associated Press obtained records of a March 15, 2010, e-mail correspondence between FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor and his colleagues. In the e-mail, Taylor expressed significant concern over the suggested name change from high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar.
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“It would be affirmatively misleading to change the name of the ingredient after all this time, especially in light of the controversy surrounding it,” said Taylor. “If we allow it, we will rightly be mocked both on the substance of the outcome and the process through which it was achieved.”
Meanwhile, in a letter from July 12 of that year, FDA director Barbara Schneeman wrote to the Corn Refiners Association expressing her own discontent with the “corn sugar” term, especially on its websites cornsugar.com and sweetsurprise.com. “We request that you re-examine your websites and modify statements that use the term ‘corn sugar’ as a synonym for (high fructose corn syrup),” Schneeman told the association.
So while the jury’s still out officially, it looks like the writing’s on the wall for the Corn Refiners Association petition. As former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler also told the AP: “Whatever you call it, it should have little place in the American diet… It certainly sounds like the FDA clearly signaled the industry that this is not a wise thing to do.”