The Corn Refiners Assocation has recently petitioned the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)  to “corn sugar”. They’re following the new rule: if your name gets dragged through the mud, get a new one!

But when did people start to think of sugar as something wholesome? The Name Inspector is asking that question rhetorically, because he knows perfectly well when it happened: when HFCS became the new demon of the nutritional world, and hip foodies started buying Mexican Coke thinking it’s made with pure cane sugar (or just because they like the cute retro glass bottles).

Is HFCS really so bad? One thing that muddles the issue is that people get their politics mixed up with their science. They don’t like Big Agra, and in particular, they don’t like King Corn. They object to the practice of feeding corn to beef cattle, which leads to an increased use of antibiotics and a higher level of bad Omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fat in the resulting beef.

But does that make HFCS bad? Politically, perhaps, but not nutritionally. The main nutritional objections to HFCS seem to be (1) it’s very sugary, (2) it’s in lots of foods, including ones where you wouldn’t expect to find it, and (3) it’s usually made from genetically-altered corn. But it’s gotten an especially bad rap lately, partly because it has a name so long and scientific sounding that it has to be abbreviated.

Compare poor HFCS to the much more groovily-named “agave nectar”, available in health stores everywhere. Agave nectar is essentially high fructose agave syrup, make from agave starch rather than corn starch, but through a similar process. Seeing how its hippie cousin got a free ride for so long, poor HFCS is trying to cast off the yoke of its demonized, scientific-sounding name. Who can blame it?

3 Responses to “Gimme a little corn sugar, baby!”

  1. on 26 Mar 2011 at 6:07 pm Mr Z

    Long and scientific sounding has little to do with it. The reason that HFCS is in so many products is farm subsidies. A glut of some product which was paid for already will find a use. If the corn industry was not subsidized and protected by big agra, it would be more expensive than actual sugar.

    There are other reasons to not like it; anywhere you see it in the ingredients list, replace it with sugar. Now ask yourself if you would want that product? They started out with HFCS as a name because people didn’t want real sugar in everything that they eat. Calling it corn sugar won’t help them in the middle of the western world coming to its senses about what is good to eat or not. The political problems won’t go away any time soon and calling it sugar won’t help at all. People looking at labels will see the word sugar. It won’t matter if it is prefixed by the word corn or cane or brown or whatever. It’s still sugar and we all know you don’t need any of that.

    Besides that, people that care about what they eat are usually intelligent enough to find out what HFCS is and when they google ‘corn sugar’ the response will be “oh, that sh*t!”

    They will have spent a lot of money to look foolish.

  2. on 26 Mar 2011 at 7:59 pm justawriter

    I just wonder if you are also going to insist that so-called Agave Nectar be labeled as “hydrolyzed inulin and polyfructans” because it is produced by exactly the same process as HFCS. The “Big Agave” lobby has been able to get away with this lie for far too long. They never tell you that their so called nectar (when never ever saw a flower) contains up to 92 percent fructose, nearly twice as much as the much abused HFCS.

  3. on 28 Mar 2011 at 12:10 pm Consumer Freedom

    Agave nectar is certainly getting a free ride, when it’s arguably worse than alternatives. I don’t think I could have said it better myself. High fructose corn syrup gets a bum rap politically, but nutritionally, there’s no difference in how the body metabolizes it and table sugar. Whatever sugar people want to eat, the important part is to not overdo it.

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