'High-fructose corn syrup'? Never heard of it
Photo courtesy of Parl via FlickrIf you can’t beat ’em … confuse them. That seems to be the new motto of our good friends at the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group and manufacturing association that represents makers of high-fructose corn syrup. The AP is reporting that the group has petitioned the FDA for permission to identify high-fructose corn syrup on food packaging as — wait for it — “corn sugar.”
After all, HFCS sales are at a 20-year low. More and more, science is indicating that the body metabolizes HFCS differently from table sugar in a way that increases the risk of diabetes, liver disease, and obesity. (Yes, we consume too many sweeteners of all kinds, but as I wrote in this recent post, there is evidence that this industrially extracted combination of fructose and glucose has more health consequences than the ones that humans have been consuming for far longer.) As the Corn Refiners president observed sadly, HFCS of late “has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood.” Well, I’ll certainly agree with the first part of that statement. All the recent marketing muscle put behind HFCS seems to have been a sweetly surprising waste of money.
So, when the facts and consumer sentiment are against you, what is a poor, misunderstood oligopoly to do?
The answer: obfuscate!
Surely, in wonderfully Orwellian style, a name change will take care of matters. I don’t even know what to call this latest bit of corporate idiocy. Cornwashing?
This latest move proves the old adage that, when it comes to industrial food, the customer is always wrong, wrong, WRONG!!
It also demonstrates the fundamental bad faith under which these groups operate. As long as government policy and industrial agricultural practices ensure a vast overproduction of cheap corn, food processors will continue finding creative ways (animal feed, vehicle fuel, wallboard) to use it all. The only option that remains is the last refuge of marketing scoundrels everywhere: deception.
And though the name change could take up to two years, the marketing push will begin immediately. Forewarned is forearmed.
UPDATE: I’d like to point out that there are plenty of other “corn sugars” on food labels with misleading names likes dextrose and maltodextrin. Maybe the FDA should grant the CRA’s HFCS petition, but force them to call all of these sweeteners by the same name. Maybe then people would truly understand the amount of “corn sugar” being shoved down their throats by Big Food.
Get Grist in your inbox