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Trade group seeks name change for 'high-fructose corn syrup'

The Corn Refiners Assn. petitions the Food and Drug Administration to rename the much-maligned sweetener 'corn sugar.'

September 15, 2010|By Mary Ellen Podmolik

Much in the same way that troubled companies change names to improve their reputations, the Corn Refiners Assn. is trying to do away with high-fructose corn syrup.

Not the product. Just its moniker.

The trade group said that it was petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to replace the phrase "high-fructose corn syrup" with "corn sugar."

The suggested change didn't get a ringing endorsement from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would have preferred something more apt for an engineered food product, perhaps something like "chemically converted corn syrup" or "glucose-fructose corn syrup."

"I'm not excited about the name 'corn sugar,' " said Michael Jacobson, the center's executive director. "That implies that it's squeezed out of corn, and it's not."

But Jacobson likes "corn sugar" better than the current name for the ingredient, which has taken a beating. Many experts contend all sweeteners metabolize the same way, but high-fructose corn syrup has come under scrutiny for causing body fat. That's led to its removal from such products as Sara Lee whole wheat bread and Kraft Foods Inc.'s Capri Sun fruit drinks.

When trying to decide on a new name, the refiners group surveyed more than 1,200 consumers to see which they liked better. The other options were "corn sweetener" and "corn nectar."

Corn sugar "best communicates that consumers understand it has the same calories as sugar, the same sweetness as sugar and about the same fructose level," said trade group president Audrae Erickson. The decision to offer manufacturers an alternative name to use was prompted by consumers, not consumer product makers, but she acknowledged approval from the FDA would have a "spillover benefit" for food companies.

The FDA doesn't make such changes lightly, and Erickson said it could take up to two years for a decision.

There has been one name change approved by the FDA that made it a lot easier for consumers who inspect the side of a box for ingredients. Canola oil used to be called "low erucic acid rapeseed oil."

mepodmolik@tribune.com

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