FDA agrees with Tester: High fructose corn syrup isn’t “sugar”

Senator called proposed name change ‘misleading’ for Montana consumers

(U.S. SENATE) – Following a request by Senator Jon Tester, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that high-fructose corn syrup cannot be called “corn sugar.”

Unlike sugar that comes from sugar beets or sugar cane, high fructose corn syrup is chemically processed corn starch used to sweeten beverages and foods.  The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to change the syrup’s name to “corn sugar.”

Tester, the Senate’s only farmer, told the FDA in November that renaming high fructose corn syrup as corn sugar would deny Montanans their right to make knowledgeable choices about what ingredients they purchase for their families.

“We are concerned that if FDA were to allow companies to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to ‘corn sugar’ on food labels, it would mislead consumers,” Tester wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.  “We urge you to follow your science-based process for consumer protection so that consumers are able to readily identify food ingredients.”

In its ruling, the FDA highlighted that its guidelines require sugar to be “solid, dried, and crystallized food.”  High fructose corn syrup is a liquid.

“Montanans deserve the whole truth when they go to the store and look at what’s in the food they’re buying,” Tester said.  “I appreciate the FDA standing up for consumers and supporting Montana’s hard-working sugar beet growers.”

With nearly 45,000 acres of sugar beet crops grown in Montana, Tester said that the name change would have specifically hurt Montana’s farmers and sugar beet refinery workers. 

Some nutrition experts also say that foods and beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contribute to rising childhood obesity.

Tester was joined in opposition to the name change by the U.S. Beet Sugar Association, the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Consumers Union.

Tester is a third generation dry land grain farmer from Big Sandy.  His bipartisan letter to FDA Commissioner Hamburg is available online HERE.

The FDA’s response to the Corn Refiners Association is available online HERE.