FDA Declares High Fructose Corn Syrup Is NOT Sugar

FDA Declares High Fructose Corn Syrup Is NOT Sugar

If you’ve seen those corn industry commercials that claimed “your body can’t tell the difference between ‘corn sugar’ and ‘cane sugar'” and had to pause the tv from laughing at the idiocy of that statement, good news. The FDA agrees and has denied the corn industry the chance to rebrand high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “corn sugar”, on the grounds that it is not, in fact, sugar.

From the New York Times:

“HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose,” the letter stated. “Thus, 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.”

In addition, the F.D.A. concluded that the term “corn sugar” has been used to describe the sweetener dextrose and therefore should not be used to describe high-fructose corn syrup. The agency also said the term “corn sugar” could pose a risk to consumers who have been advised to avoid fructose because of a hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption.

The corn industry, meanwhile, claims the FDA is denying their request on technicalities. Because, you know, chemistry is just a pesky technicality. Just because cane sugar and beet sugar are naturally occurring, and high fructose corn syrup comes from a laboratory. Just because both are sweet and used in desserts doesn’t mean they are the same, any more than Splenda or Sweet n Low are the same as sugar.

Of course, this is all just a way for the corn refiners to dodge the fact that HFCS has earned a truly terrible reputation as of late and for good reason. There have been studies indicating it is really bad for you, probably worse for you than actual sugar. Princeton University determined rats fed HFCS gained more weight than rats fed sugar water, and rats on a HFCS diet had significantly poorer health than rats not given HFCS. Plus there are all sorts of nasty things associated with HFCS, including one researcher who found mercury in a vat of the stuff. It is super processed, not natural, and most certainly not good for you.

I think the best summation of HFCS, and why it is so terrible, is this conclusion from Dr. Mark Hyman’s excellent post on The Huffington Post:

1. We are consuming HFCS and sugar in pharmacologic quantities never before experienced in human history — 140 pounds a year vs. 20 teaspoons a year 10,000 years ago.

2. High fructose corn syrup is almost always found in very poor quality foods that are nutritionally vacuous and filled with all sorts of other disease-promoting compounds, fats, salt, chemicals and even mercury.

So basically, we not only eat too much sugar, we aren’t even eating real sugar. Scary stuff. But it is great to see the FDA do their jobs right, and not cave to a large industrial presence. Calling HFCS “cane sugar” obfuscates the truth, and it’s not right to pretend it is healthy…no matter how many commercials you shoot in a cornfield!

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

12 Comments on "FDA Declares High Fructose Corn Syrup Is NOT Sugar"

  1. SO the Corn Sugar gambit has failed….

    Corn Syrup has been a round a LONG long time. I use it occasionally in baking. The problem with HFCS isn’t that we eat it occasionally. The problem is for people who drink regular pop/soda/coke whatever you call it. People who drink those drink them DAILY and thus have a MUCH higher consumption of it. That and manufacturers have snuck it in to every thing. Even meat! It’s incredibly HARD to avoid it. Eat anything to the level that HFCS has in the common diet and bad things happen. I think that’s why it’s given a bad rap. Well, that and the process used to make it is kind of weird when compared to making sugar from sugar cane requiring the adding of enzymes and stuff like that. You don’t have to add anything to sugar cane to make it (at least that’s what I got from here: (

    • Joel- respectfully (don’t you just hate when people use that to open a strong disagreement) 🙂 You are dead wrong. It is poison and its use went up tremendously after concerns over fat in food led to a reduction of it a number of years ago. Our consumption of it has jumped in a huge way in recent years. Watch this and you will see what new research indicates Is sugar toxic? – 60 Minutes – CBS News
      Yes, it is difficult to avoid if you eat tons of highly-processed foods. But no one makes you eat that stuff and much of the health issues we have in this country is the result of sugar, corn-syrup, and food that is so highly processed that it contains little or no nutritional value.
      We are literally killing ourselves little by little. (By the way, what I know about this is only the result of Elana’s training in healthy cooking and as a certified fitness trainer. She’s actually an expert in this area. I just get the info and food by osmosis.)

      • Not disagreeing with you and I am leaning the same way, but there’s always people with an agenda and I tend to NOT want to be that way and look at the true facts…..corroborated by multiple sources…before I go one way or another. I see this kind of thing A LOT when it comes to food. Remember when everyone wanted us to eat margarine and go low fat? That may not be a good idea either (Gary Taubes and a bunch of others). That is why I am a skeptic. I will look more into it that is for sure.

        The same thing when it comes to aspartame, Splenda, Stevia, Canola, Olestra and other types of manufactured ingredients. Does the FDA do enough research before bringing these out??

        One thing I am seriously looking at doing is going as natural as I can go to avoid this kind of stuff. That doesn’t mean things like no frozen food or stuff like that but avoiding anything that has any of these types of ingredients. The problem is I can’t, with my current situation, afford it. Either in money or time. Organics (which aren’t all necessarily “natural” either) are pricey. I am busier than I have ever been and that’s not going to change. SO I am at an impasse with this. The answer is: will I feel better if I do this? Is it worth the investment in money and time? I would like to think so, but I don’t have enough of either to go find out.

        • Even if you can’t go organic there are ways to buy food cheaply.

          Check out local ethnic grocery stores: the local Indian store by us sells dried beans and rice for a 1/3 of what Costco wants for bulk food. And there’s a local “farmers market” by me that’s significantly cheaper than the grocery store. It just means looking a little harder. But we get most of our fruit and veggies for two people for a week for around $30. Throw in another $20-25 for meats and that’s our groceries.
          And very little of it has any non-naturally occurring sugar (and definitely no HFCS!)

          • We don’t actually have that many of those. At least in my neighborhood.

            For obvious reasons, I do believe in getting locally produced things but it’s just hard to find things produced locally in Columbus that don’t cost an arm, leg and a few fingers.

            • Yeah – I think there is a much greater proliferation of ethnic food stores on the coasts or even the larger cities than in a middle-of-the-road place like Columbus. I see an occasional market but it is a relatively rare thing in this part of the country – especially if you live in the “burbs” vs. in the city proper (or near downtown). It was virtually non-existent when I lived in the south too. There you were lucky to find a place that had a salad bar (other than the big buffet places) and where everything WASN’T deep fried!

              • We have, nearby, Aldi, Kroger, Walmart (non-super), Ollies Bargain Outlet, Big Lots and a local mom and pop store called Kelly’s Market (which I LOVE and is competitive sometimes). In season, the North Market has locally grown veggies and Giant Eagle (which I forgot) will also have local stuff occasionally but is really expensive (I find).

                There is no easy answer, but remember when you are searching for that really expensive gluten free stuff and can afford to get tons of fresh veggies, some can’t. So we have to eat the “supposed” bad stuff. Sure, it’s bad but when you have no choice it keeps you alive. Note: Some of the people who have no choice don’t eat volumes of the stuff just cuz it’s cheap….we gotta make it last so they’ll eat a regular serving and put it down.

          • The sad reality is that it is *much* cheaper to feed a family using processed foods – and that is due 100% to lobbying and government involvement. I mean, what insanity would have fresh (or frozen-fresh) stuff cost MORE than taking those same things and processing the heck out of them? It can’t … yet it does. So for me that means coming out with huge grocery bills to feel my two >6’2″ teen boys … because we’ve taught them healthy eating since they were young – and are now paying the price!

            • But Mike, as you know and I suspect one of the reasons you do what you do, the grocery bill goes up but the medical bills potentially go down. No, there is no guarantee but, for many many people a healthier diet equals a healthier body.
              I know that Elana has seen major changes since she radically revised what she eats. As for me, at the moment I can tell you I am eating no processed food, no sugar, no gluten, tons of veggies and protein and… gasp… right now no alcohol. There is no question I feel better and in just a month and a half I have dropped 15 or so pounds. Yeah I am doing lots of the poison-that-is Crystal Light but something has to give and I have a huge sweet tooth.
              Sent from my iPad

              • Oh, I totally agree … I truly believe that the ‘junk food hangover’ is a real thing!

                BUT … those most likely to choose processed/junk food over healthy choices as dietary staples are also those least likely to use preventative health care – or even have insurance …

                • Sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. Right now my budget is about busted. We’re buying generic mac and cheese because I can feed all three of us for little money and you are right…..it’s all lobbying on ALL sides of it.

                  For us, this is temporary. For MANY this is reality for a long time.

              • I’d like to think so, but sometimes genetics has you doomed. Fortunately, for me, I caught my HBP and Sleep Apnea and am handling it(probably had the apnea a good chunk of my life). However, my grandfather ALSO had hbp and probably sleep apnea(although it was never diagnosed back then). My grandpa wasn’t diagnosed with HBP until he was retired and he probably had it for years. It’s not strictly diet that causes these diseases as everything else is good with me. Triglycerides, Glucose, Total Cholesterol are all good with me even with the extra weight I have (which I need to lose, for sure). My good cholesterol is too low so they have me on Niaspan(aka Niacin).

                My, now retired, boss has had a heart attack….and he is one of the healthiest eaters and exercisers that I know. He had total blockages in his arteries and stents put in. He runs daily and was in good shape before the heart attack but he still had it.

                There’s no one right thing for everyone. I wish the health insurance companies and dr’s would realize that and try and find what works for you.

                I am glad this is working for you Dan, but it’s not even an option, budget wise, for me. At all. Maybe after these money issues we’re going through are over I will look more to a dietary change, but for now, I got to do whatever I can do to make sure we eat and can get to work.

                Off I go to get whatever I can find to snack on in the cupboard….sigh.

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