New corn syrup labeling is misleading

Guest Column by Aaron Loudenslager

Corporations and industry groups are at it again, trying to deceive the American public into buying products that are either unsafe or unhealthy. This is their corporate duty under the assumption that they must, as economic agents, follow ruthless self-interest to protect their corporation or industry as a whole.

This time, the Corn Refiners Association is trying to change the name of “high-fructose corn syrup,” a name with many negative connotations, to “corn sugar,” a name that sounds much more consumer friendly.

The name change is disingenuous. It is meant to deceive consumers into buying more products with high-fructose corn syrup, without those consumers knowing that they are in fact putting high-fructose syrup into their bodies.

Words are powerful. I know this firsthand from writing articles for this periodical. As Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Words –– so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

High-fructose corn syrup contains corn sugar, but the two are not exactly the same. What exactly is corn sugar then? According to internal documents of the FDA obtained by the Associated Press, it is simply another name for dextrose, which is also known as the simple sugar “glucose.” Why does the Corn Refiners Association want corn sugar substituted for high-fructose corn syrup?

First off, we must compare the differences between high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose. Sucrose is the sugar that makes up the entirety of cane and beet sugar. Both high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are made up of fructose and glucose, but that is where the similarities end.

High-fructose corn syrup is made up of an unequal amount of fructose and glucose, whereas sucrose has the exact same amount of fructose and glucose. Most importantly, sucrose’s fructose molecules are bound to other glucose molecules, meaning that sucrose must go through an extra metabolic step before the body may use it.

In comparison, high-fructose corn syrup’s fructose molecules are “free and unbound,” meaning that the body can metabolize fructose quicker. How does this affect the body in practical terms?

A Princeton University study using lab rats tested the difference of feeding rats high-fructose corn syrup and pure sucrose. The rats who were fed the high fructose corn syrup gained much more weight than the rats that were fed pure sucrose, even though both the corn syrup and pure sucrose contained the same concentration of sugar.

As Princeton University professor Bart Hoebel, who worked on the research team for this study said, “Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests.”

The results of these lab tests may give some explanation to why there has been a sudden increase in obesity rates in the United States since the 1970s. High-fructose corn syrup was introduced as a cost-effective sweetener during this time period, where obesity rates were around 15 percent. Today, this number has skyrocketed to almost one-third of the population.

Thus, it seems we have found a reason why the Corn Refiners Association wants to change the term “high-fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar.” Corn sugar, as defined by the FDA, is simply dextrose, or glucose. Changing “high-fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar” makes corn syrup seem more “natural,” like the sucrose that comes from cane and beet sugar.

This is the reason behind the name change. High-fructose corn syrup has been heavily associated with obesity, whereas sucrose has not been associated with obesity to the same extent.

By changing the name to corn sugar, consumers will think they are eating healthier and less likely to be obese compared to high-fructose corn syrup. The sad fact is that they are still consuming corn syrup, they are just being deceived.

Consumers have a right to free and uninhibited information, but it must not be deceitful. What the Corn Refiners Association is doing goes against this standard.

The Association is explicitly trying to lie to consumers, all so that their industry may make more profits because uninformed consumers will by “corn sugar,” thinking it is healthier than high-fructose corn syrup, when in reality, it is exactly the same.

This simply is not acceptable, and the Corn Refiners Association should personally be ashamed of themselves for putting profits of their industry above truthful consumer information.