FDA requires the use of a common and usual name in product ingredient lists so that consumers know what specific ingredients are in the products they purchase. Since the early 1980s, consumers have been aware of the ingredient known as "high-fructose corn syrup." The Cohen Survey demonstrated that changing the ingredient's name to "corn sugar" would mislead consumers into believing that their food contained an entirely different sweetener.

In recent public comments, CRA suggested that the FDA can prevent consumer confusion associated with the name change by mandating FDA coordinated "consumer education, including a period of co-labeling" with both names. Although CRA contends that renaming HFCS is intended to correct misperceptions about the manufactured sweetener, the Cohen Survey demonstrates that a name change would not significantly alter consumer preference, but it would alter consumer behavior by creating - rather than eliminating - confusion. The Sugar Association noted in its comments that it is illogical for FDA to allow a name switch that would require a government-mandated educational campaign to help overcome confusion created by the change.

CRA has also attempted to dismiss concerns about consumers with heredity fructose intolerance, a life-threatening condition. These consumers are at risk from consuming HFCS but not from consuming authentic corn sugar (dextrose - which contains no fructose). CRA attempts to diminish this serious safety concern by arguing that these consumers "ultimately" will find ways to protect themselves from the confusion. The Sugar Association notes in its new comments that it would be wrong for the CRA to place this burden on vulnerable consumers in order to stop declining sales of HFCS for the benefit of the agribusiness giants that are the CRA's members, like Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill and others.

Although CRA has argued that only a small percentage of consumers are trying to avoid HFCS as a food ingredient, the Cohen survey showed a very substantial preference against the ingredient and showed further that consumer avoidance of HFCS is based on concerns over ingredient itself rather than its name.
The Sugar Association argues that the proposed name change would only deceive and mislead consumers as to the identity of the HFCS. Therefore, the Sugar Association requested that the FDA preserve consumers right to know by denying the CRA petition.

In a separate action, in October, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that a coalition of American sugar farmers and producers had provided sufficient evidence about the HFCS advertising campaign by the CRA to demonstrate "a reasonable probability of success" in proving that its key claims are false. The lawsuit alleges that senior executives of agribusiness conglomerates Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill and others "organize[d] collectively in order to dominate and ... control" the ongoing marketing campaign to rename HFCS as "corn sugar." Their national advertising campaign also claims that HFCS is a "natural" product equivalent to real sugar from cane and beet plants. The sugar farmers argue that those claims are untrue.

For a copy of the Sugar Association comments to the FDA and Dr. Cohen's consumer research study, please contact lbetancourt@levick.com.

Western Farm Press: For a response from the Corn Refiners Association, please see: http://westernfarmpress.com/vegetables/corn-refiners-say-sugar-industry-creating-false-controversy.