Home Health News High Fructose Corn Syrup Wants New Name: Why You Shouldn’t Care

High Fructose Corn Syrup Wants New Name: Why You Shouldn’t Care

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I tried to wait on writing about this, just because I wanted to see what people were saying about this whole thing. It’s interesting… watching people twist themselves into knots trying to justify high fructose corn syrup. I think they all manage to miss the mark here, though.

A little backstory:

On September 14, the Corn Refiner’s Association said in a press release posted on its website that it has asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, to use the name “corn sugar” instead of high fructose corn syrup.

The FDA considers HFCS as natural, even though critics point out that this sweetener consisting of both glucose and fructose is in reality, not found in corn.  This product is made by enzymatically converting some portion of glucose, which is derived from corn starch, into fructose.

The resulting high fructose corn syrup, which is commonly used in a variety of processed foods and beverages, consists of 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose, or 42 percent fructose and 53 percent glucose.

Use of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to an increased risk of overweight and obesity, among other things.  [source]

Read the emboldened paragraph one more time, then read the following:

High fructose corn syrup may be labeled natural when synthetic fixing agents do not come into contact with it during manufacturing, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fuelling further debate on the controversial sweetener.

The decision, written to the Corn Refiners Association and considered a backtrack for the FDA by organizations opposed to the ingredient, followed a meeting that was prompted by a FoodNavigator-USA.com article published in April this year.

At that time, Geraldine June, supervisor of the product evaluation and labeling team at FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, responded to an inquiry made by FoodNavigator-USA.com saying “we would object to the use of the term ‘natural’ on a product containing HFCS”, because it is produced using synthetic fixing agents.

However, June has now said that when HFCS is made using the process presented by Archer Daniels Midland Company, it can be considered natural.


High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is derived from corn, and used primarily to sweeten beverages. The trade group Corn Refiners Association and numerous industry members have long maintained that HFCS is a natural sweetener.

“This is very good news, and makes it clear once again that HFCS is at a parity with sugar,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association.

“HFCS contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets FDA’s requirements for the use of the term ‘natural.’ HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product.” [source]

So, apparently, high fructose corn syrup wants to go into witness protection, since everyone’s hunting for it. I get it. Okay.

Just to make sure that we, here at BGG2WL, don’t lose perspective of the issue at hand… I’m going to say the following: the Corn Refiners Association is correct.

[insert gasp]

They’re right! They’re right, they’re right, they’re right. HFCS and table sugar both cause the same problems, create the same dependencies, and [when consumed in excess] do the exact same damage. HFCS wants to attach itself to cane sugar because cane sugar doesn’t suffer the same demonization as high fructose corn syrup. Cane sugar has been “normalized,” so to speak. It’s that simple. They’re hoping to just be blended in as “a sugar” like the other guys.. but they’re not just like the other guys. The other guys aren’t everywhere like high fructose corn syrup.

HFCS is an extremely cheap way for manufacturers to ensure that you’ll like their products just a little more.. so they add as much of it in their food as you can stand. It’s that simple. From Appetite for Profit:

So now, the public has decided that HFCS is simply the wrong sweetener. As a result of this demonizing, we are now in the ridiculous situation where food companies are falling over each other to remove HFCS from their products, slap on a natural label, and get brownie points for helping Americans eat better. Exhibit A, Pepsi Natural:

Pepsi Natural is made with all-natural ingredients, including lightly sparkling water, natural sugar, natural caramel and kola nut extract.

Only Big Food would find a way to make a product full of refined white sugar (which at one time was also demonized) seem like a healthy alternative. It’s like I always say, the food industry is very good at taking criticism and turning it into a marketing opportunity.

It’s not that HFCS is the wrong sweetener… it’s the fact that America’s sweet tooth – period – is problematic. As I’ve written before:

That’s the problem with sugar. In most cases – the way it’s used often results in there being very little to blunt the impact of the sugar on your system, thus resulting in it having the same effect as an overabundance of high fructose corn syrup in your daily diet. I won’t even get on the affects that an abundance of high fructose corn syrup, an abundance of sugar and a lack of fiber can have on our appearance. The difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup is simply that high fructose corn syrup is in almost every processed food item, and almost every processed food item is devoid of fiber. [source]

People who avoid high fructose corn syrup without taking into consideration the fact that they should be avoiding sugar altogether(and, in a way, processed foods) as best as they can are missing the mark. They’re also buying into that cycle that convinces consumers to continuously chase “health claims” on food labels. You know, the ones that say “no trans fat!!!!!!!” but still have “partially hydrogenated soybean oil” on the side? Yeah, those.

Click here to read more about the difference between high fructose corn syrup and table sugar.

The reality of the issue is… the FDA will most likely grant the request and life will go on with people eating much more sugar than they should… that is, until they start realizing that getting rid of the boxes and reheatables and other crap is the way to go.

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Nicole September 23, 2010 - 11:59 AM

Where does white wine fall under this? Is wine sweetened with these artificial sweeteners? (Wines like Riesling or Moscato which are really sweet)
For some reason, I know what you’re going to say… (You’re my nutritionist in my head)

toyalise September 23, 2010 - 12:40 PM

i have such a love/hate interaction with your site lmao. i already tossed 90% of my kethcups and bottled bbq sauces and teryaki sauces…i make my own, using small amounts of honey and brown sugar….
NOW i understand that that’s totally not the point. the point to to ween myself off of these sweet cravings altogether. my baked chicken wings don’t NEED to be slathered in sauces, and these fruit juices w/o hfcs???? JUST AS BAD!! *facepalm* thanks for this, cause i’ve just been avoiding hfcs…. not that sugar IS any better, but because it lacks preservatives and fillers. glad i know it’s just my sweet tooth to blame. should i avoid any one of those more than the other, then?

CJM September 23, 2010 - 12:51 PM

I was wondering if someone else was getting annoyed with the media blitz to convince me that HFCS is really great for me and will help be skip through fields of daisies. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not good to be a sugar snob though. Sugar is sugar and I should cut it regardless of the form.

@Nicole-As I understand it, a wine’s sweetness generally doesn’t come from added sugar. Mostly it’s the sweetness of the grape, or how long they leave it on the vine prior to harvest. But not having added sugar doesn’t mean that a sweet wine doesn’t have more sugar in it than a dry one. It’s just the sugar comes from the grape itself. Also, I think some companies may add sugar if they are doing say a spiced wine or bottled sangria or something (I looked at the back of a bottle).

Amber J. September 23, 2010 - 1:06 PM

Great information!

You always do a really good job of reporting out the facts.

Amber J. September 23, 2010 - 1:07 PM

Great information!

You always do a really good job of reporting out the facts.

Danielle September 23, 2010 - 3:38 PM

Great article, Erika!

So the CRA is still trying to do damage control, I see. I figured as much since they’ve put their “HFCS isn’t bad” commercials back on the air. Sadly, I’m sure a lot of people won’t be notified of this name change and people who were looking for HFCS on food labels before will now be tricked into buying foods they don’t want.

I don’t buy foods with HFCS, as I try to avoid added sugars, period. However, when I do indulge in a sweet, I try to get one without HFCS in the list. Yes, it has been made out to be evil to a near-ridiculous degree, but people always want things to be black and white. The question here is, “Is HFCS harmful or not?” So far, that question hasn’t really been answered.

I think in the short-term, there’s nothing wrong with HFCS. The body supposedly treats it like sugar. So if you choose to treat yourself to a sweet only once a month, it really doesn’t matter if that product has HFCS or not. However, the FDA does say you can have added sugar daily (you personally will know if that’s ok for you or not) and I’d have to ask myself if I want that added sugar to be cane sugar or HFCS. I’d choose cane sugar.

There have been studies done comparing weight gain in rats fed HFCS compared to rats fed table sugar. The rats fed table sugar gained much less weight than rats fed HFCS. You always do your homework, though, so I’m sure you know this already. I remember reading other articles that hypothesize that the high fructose level (hence the name) is the problem in HFCS. It’s much higher than you’ll find in nature. An apple with the skin contains roughly 22,692mg of fructose. Compare that to a soda that has nearly 30,000mg and unlike the apple, is providing no vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals, and no fiber to help control the fructose’s effect on the blood sugar.

But my rambling aside, I think consumers need to demand that sweeteners, in any form, not be added where they aren’t needed. Don’t just offer HFCS-free varieties. Offer sugar-free varieties…ones that don’t contain that Splenda crap either to “make up for it.” At the end of the day, these food companies want us addicted to sugar. If we villainize HFCS, they push table sugar. If we villainize table sugar, they’ll push questionable artificial sweeteners at us. This is why, when I go to the market, the bulk of my list is produce.

I always leave long comments…sorry. 🙂

Cynthia 1770 September 24, 2010 - 9:53 AM

Hi Erika,
My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. I commend you on your
comprehensive approach. I would ask that, before you dismiss HFCS
as being just another sugar, you visit ADM’s website.
They claim to make three grades of HFCS:
Cornsweet 42
Cornsweet 55 used for soda
Cornsweet 90 intensely sweet used for low-cal diet foods and beverages.
The #’s relfect the % fructose in the sweetener.
42% —->90% that’s quite a range.
Calculating the fructose:glucose ratio in each
Cornsweet 42 =42/58 =0.72
Cornsweet 55 =55/45 =1.22(22% more fru than glu in every Coke)
Cornsweet 90 = 90/10 = 9
Sugar, of course, always rings in at 50% fructose, 1:1.
I see the problem as this: There is a wide range of %fructose and
fructose:glucose across the span of sweeteners. I sure you have done
your research on the metabolic dangers of excess fructose.
Since HFCS is only a blend of fructose and glucose, the CRA can monkey
with the ratio anyway they want, since it will always yield a product
that has 4 cal/g. Personally, I think that the name HFCS should remain and the FDA should require that the %fru listed, e.g HFCS-90.
Great Website.
Take care,
Trying to get the HFCS-out,
Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

Erika September 24, 2010 - 10:05 AM


Yes, I dismiss HFCS as another sugar because ALL sugar needs to be limited. Of course I acknowledge HFCS as harmful – simply on the strength that it is a chemical and NOT natural in origin – but it doesn’t matter if you call it fruity angel lullaby juice. It ALL needs to be as limited as possible, and for the readers of this site, this post served the purpose of reinforcing that.

I don’t do chemical talk simply because I don’t do chemicals. 🙂

Thanks a ton for sharing, though!

Adrianne September 25, 2010 - 9:57 AM

No matter what they call it, we all need to try and reduce sugar in all its forms.

Daetan Huck September 28, 2010 - 9:17 AM

Here’s the link to the Princeton HFCS study showing a greater fat gain in rats taking HFCS than rats taking common table sugar (both groups were given the same caloric intake):

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain – News at Princeton

Erika September 28, 2010 - 10:53 AM

Already covered it – it’s linked in the post – but thank you so much for sharing the hard link. 🙂

Mascha December 16, 2011 - 12:23 PM

While I agree with you that we, as Americans, have a sugar addiction in general, I am firmly on Team Eliminate HFCS. Yes…we eat too much sugar. Yes…it is a large contribution to our ongoing obesity problem (and the other health conditions that go along with that).

As a healthcare professional, I’m looking at this in a slightly different way. Naturally occurring (and naturally bound) sugars can be broken down by ALL cells in the body. Due to the “unnatural methods” through which the sugar molecules are bonded in HFCS, the liver is largely responsible for breakdown of HFCS. This clearly puts additional strain on one of the mail filtering organs in our bodies.

It’s definitely a “lesser of two evils” debate! Should we be limiting our sugar intake (whether sweets or other carbs)…ABSOLUTELY. But if you are eating them, in whichever quantity, it makes sense to me to choose the one(s) the body will be most efficient at processing and not lead to extra strain on 1 organ.

#justmy$0.02 🙂

Juniysa Serens January 12, 2012 - 5:00 AM

I really dislike the fact that the Corn refiners Association took advantage of Corn growers recent growth production. The original intent for growing more corn was for biofuels for Cars, not for people!

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