U.S. FDA Declines to Authorize Use of “Corn Sugar” to Refer to High Fructose Corn Syrup

On May 30, 2012, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) denied a petition filed by the Corn Refiners Association to authorize the use of “corn sugar” as an alternate common or usual name for high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). See Response to Petition from Corn Refiners Association to Authorize “Corn Sugar” as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup. Among other things, the Association contended that many consumers are confused by the name “high fructose corn syrup,” and incorrectly believe that HFCS is significantly higher in calories, fructose, and sweetness than sugar. In denying the petition, the FDA explained that its “regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.” The FDA reasoned that,

[T]he use of the term “corn sugar” for HFCS would suggest that HFCS is a solid, dried, and crystallized sweetener obtained from corn. Instead, HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose. 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. As such, using the term “sugar” would not be consistent with the general principles governing common or usual names under 21 CFR 102.5.

The FDA also denied a request by the Association to amend both the standard of identity for dextrose monohydrate (21 CFR 168.111) to eliminate “corn sugar” as an alternative name, and the GRAS affirmation regulation for corn sugar (21 CFR 184.1857) to replace the term “corn sugar” with “dextrose.”

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