Devil Is in the Detail – Importance of Labels – Part 1

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August 31, 2015

Labelling ruse…how ‘fructose’ is fructose-overload-infographiccamouflage for HFCS-90

When the consuming public widely rejected products containing HFCS, many food manufacturers produced new formulations to address this concern, and shore up lost revenue.  Some also spent considerable resources repackaging and advertising to make clear HCFS was no longer used.  By and large, those efforts produced more healthy versions of products as far as sweeteners were concerned.

But we are concerned that many efforts to date have the optics right but not the substance–its great that HFCS is removed, but if that toxic industrial sweetener isn’t substituted with something better, then the only change is on the label, not what’s inside!  And what if the substitution is even WORSE than HFCS?  Some efforts we fear had the nefarious effect of spawning formulations even less healthy than the one consumers rejected.

Some manufacturers that removed HFCS from a product added back what is labeled ‘fructose’ as a sweetening ingredient (either solo or in combination with others). Many consumers believe fructose on the label is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, which is almost certainly not the case, because it would be prohibitively expensive to produce.   Until proven otherwise, safer to assume it’s HFCS-90 renamed “fructose” –an industry labeling norm according to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) website.  Far sweeter than either table sugar or HFCS-42 or HFCS-55 (the two concentrations the FDA allows to be called HFCS) it uses less to achieve the same sweetness thus lowers the manufacturers production costs.

By naming the replacement sweetener something that sounds vaguely healthy, some food conglomerates get a pass from public scrutiny and may now be free to sell a really unhealthy product unfettered for years.  We advise consumers to be wary of this increasingly common substitute for HFCS.  Among the worst Culprits we found to date are: Nature Valley Chewy Protein Bars, General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Vanilla Chex Cereals, Welch’s Natural Raspberry Spread, and some versions of Kellogg’s Pop Tarts.  All use fructose as a sweetener, while their label proclaims “NO HFCS!”

So how do wise consumers remain vigilant in spotting this kind of ruse?  Before buying, they confirm not only that unhealthy ingredients are removed, but also that replacement ingredients are legitimately healthier. To this end, we have prompted the FDA to comment on the nature of ‘fructose’ in food labels.  We have not yet received a response, but our assumption is the FDA is not likely to comment on the nature of fructose as an ingredient at present.  This is because in acknowledging that ‘fructose’ was in fact the additive HFCS-90, a non-GRAS ingredient, the regulator would likely face intense public pressure to halt the sale of such products, via legal enforcement powers the FDA almost never exercises.

So for now, all you can do is ask your food manufacturers using ‘fructose’ as an ingredient if it’s the naturally occurring kind or the additive HFCS-90.  Until you get confirmation to the contrary from the food makers you ask, assume the ‘fructose’ additive on labels of mass produced food is in fact HFCS-90.

And in the meantime, simply stop buying it—especially if the product label shouts “No HFCS” while probably containing super sweet HFCS-90 disguised as fructose!

So what else can be done to get consumers enough information to make an informed choice about sweeteners?  Support Citizens For Health (CFH) efforts by signing its Petition filed with the FDA to amend the FDA Proposed Rules on Food Labelling.  CFH’s appeal to the FDA was meant to assist consumers to flush out such slimy tactics as the “HFCS-90 disguised as fructose” ruse.  So if you haven’t already, take a moment now and sign the CFH Petition via this link: