Candy Industry Blog

High fructose corn syrup can’t have it both ways — either it’s a sugar or it isn’t

Candy makers shouldn’t be able to claim “less sugar” by adding HFCS.

November 20, 2013
sugar cubes

Here’s the thing, high fructose corn syrup can’t have it both ways. It can’t be a sugar and not be a sugar.

It can’t be all, “I’m a sugar, and when someone eats me their body processes me exactly the same way as sugar,” and then turn around and be all, “Oh, me? Sugar? No. Not technically, anyway. In fact, if you sweeten your candy with me instead of regular sugar, you can even claim that you have LESS sugar than you did before.” 

Crystal Lindell
Crystal Lindell

Sadly, that seems to be what corn syrup wants. Or at least what food makers want.

A media release from The Sugar Association came across my inbox today about a recent survey they did.

The main question asked of consumers was whether they felt, "that a product that promotes on its package that it contains '50 percent less sugar' when it contains no sugar but is actually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup is misleading."

The results?  About 84 percent of Americans replied, “Yes.” And that’s almost exactly the same amount as the 86 percent who replied, “Yes” 10 years ago back in 2004.

Needless to say the Sugar Association is up in arms about this, and wants the Federal Food and Drug Administration to weigh in on the issue.

In their media release they said, “Some products that use ‘% less sugar’ claims actually contain the same or more calories than the regular sugar version and, therefore, do not offer any health benefits to the general consumer.”   

"Food labels and front of package claims are there to help consumers make informed choices," says Andrew Briscoe, ceo of The Sugar Association.  "But if the label gives consumers false or misleading statements, the FDA is doing them a disservice by allowing this to continue."

I tend to agree completely with The Sugar Association on this one. Especially given the Corn Refiners Association’s insistence that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in fact a sweetener.

“High fructose corn syrup and sugar are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent,” explained Audrae Erickson, CRA president, in an Oct. 26, 2011 article on “Experts have supported this claim, including the American Dietetic Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.”

So, it seems this should be a black and white issue that the sugar growers and the corn refiners completely agree on. If something says it has “50 percent less sugar,” than it has to mean it — no replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup.

Welcome to the big leagues corn syrup. You want to be equal to sugar, you got it. For better or for worse, for sweeter or for sour. 

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