UPDATE: FDA Says No To “Corn Sugar”

On May 30th, the Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling denying the Corn Refiners Association’s (CRA) September 14, 2010 petition to authorize the use of “corn sugar” as an alternate optional name for high fructose corn syrup (HCFS).  The CRA contended that consumers were confused by the name “high fructose corn syrup” and that “corn sugar” more closely reflected the “basic nature of HCFS and its characteristic properties.”  The petition also argued that “consumers incorrectly believe that HFCS is significantly higher in calories, fructose, and the sweetness that sugar.” Pursuant to 21 CFR 102.5(a) the CRA asserted that the name change was appropriate because “corn sugar” reflects the source of the food, the basic nature of the food and discloses the food’s function.

The FDA’s stated rationale for denying the petition is that sugar and syrups have elementally substantive differences that require distinctive nomenclature.  Specifically, sugar “is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.”  Further eroding the basis for the petition, the FDA noted that “corn sugar” is often used to describe the ingredient dextrose to the consumer.  Consumers who are fructose intolerant rely on the “corn sugar” designation to indicate dextrose as compared to fructose.  Therefore, the FDA opined that allowing the alternate name (or granting a second request under the petition to eliminate the allowance for dextrose monohydrate to be designated as “corn sugar”) could cause a public health risk and put consumers in harm’s way.

The implications for the ongoing litigation in the Central District of California Court between the corn and cane sugar trade groups should play out in short shrift.

The FDA did not critique scientific research as to whether the human body processes sugar derived from corn verses sugar derived from cane in substantially similar manner.  Clearly this decision is a significant blow to the CRA’s attempt to rebrand high fructose corn syrup.

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Cozen O’Connor has a national team of attorneys experienced in handling food contamination and product recall coverage matters related to first-party, third-party and specialty policies. The firm also developed a Food, Beverage & Nutritional Products Industry Team to provide advice and counsel to a wide range of companies connected directly and indirectly to the food and beverage industry.
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