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

Senator says proposed name change is designed to confuse Montana consumers

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is sending the Food and Drug Administration a clear message: high fructose corn syrup isn’t sugar – and don’t try to pretend that it is.

High fructose corn syrup is chemically processed corn starch used to sweeten beverages and foods like soft drinks and cereals.  The Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to change the syrup’s name to corn sugar.

Tester, the Senate’s only active farmer, said that consumers have come to understand the differences between high fructose corn syrup, whose name was established by the agency years ago, and sugar that comes from sugar beets or sugar cane.

In a recent bipartisan letter to Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Tester argued that changing the name would deny Montana consumers their right to make knowledgeable choices about what ingredients they put in their bodies.

“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 confuse customers and mislead them,” Tester and his colleagues wrote.  “We urge you to follow your science-based process for consumer protection so that consumers are able to readily identify food ingredients.”

Tester added that the proposed change could negatively impact Montana farmers and sugar beet refinery workers.  With nearly 45,000 acres of sugar beets grown in Montana, Tester says he believes it’s critical for Montana’s economy and jobs to prevent the corn industry from confusing corn syrup with sugar.

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

Tester is joined in opposition to the Corn Refiners Association’s petition by the U.S. Beet Sugar Association, the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Consumers Union.

“Montana’s consumers deserve the whole truth when they go to the store and look at what’s in the food they’re buying,” Tester said.  “I expect swift action to deny this petition.”

Tester, a third generation dry land grain farmer from Big Sandy, earlier this year amended a new law to bring more accountability to the food industry, saying that Montana families need to know exactly what’s on their dinner tables.

Tester’s letter to Food and Drug Commissioner Hamburg is available below and online HERE.


The Honorable Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Building l, Room22l7
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Re: Petition for Alternate Name for High Fructose Com Syrup (FDA-2010-P-0491)

Dear Commissioner Hamburg,

We are writing to express our concern about a petition filed by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to change the name of "high fructose corn syrup" (HFCS) to "corn sugar." Our constituents who grow and/or process sugar cane and sugar beets strongly oppose the pending petition. This issue could adversely impact those farmers and refinery workers along with everyone else in our states who, after all, are consumers.

Years ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in response to a request from the corn refiners, established through regulation the longstanding name for this product, "high fructose corn syrup." It is the name by which consumers now identify HFCS as an ingredient in foods. Conversely, for hundreds of years "sugar" has been known to the public as the product of sugar beets or sugar cane, technically "sucrose." 'We are concerned that if FDA were to allow companies to change the name of HFCS to "corn sugar" on food labels, it would confuse consumers and mislead them into thinking that their food contains a different ingredient.

We urge you to follow FDA's science-based process for consumer protection and to maintain the integrity of the agency's food nomenclature system so that consumers are able to readily identify food ingredients. Please carefully consider whether the effort to rebrand HFCS to "corn sugar" meets those standards.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. Please keep us informed of any agency actions on this matter.

Jon Tester et al