Join Citizens for Health in asking the FDA to require accurate HFCS labeling

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September 4, 2012

Food Identity Theft — September 4, 2012: Last week I wrote about our petition here at Food Identity Theft to counteract the hype being dispensed by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) advising food and beverage manufactures that consumers don’t really give a hoot whether their food does or does not contain high fructose corn syrup.

Well, we know that’s nonsense – just another way for the CRA to promote an objectionable ingredient that consumers have clearly indicated they don’t want. If you feel that way as well, you can sign our petition by clicking here. We will be delivering the results to the top guns in the food and beverage industry, as well as to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

During the past few months I’ve reported on high fructose corn syrup that contains concentrations of possibly up to 90 percent fructose  – way more than is permitted by the FDA – that appears to be used in some foods and beverages.

Now Citizens for Health is doing something about it. The group has filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows), and also, in the interim, to provide accurate label information so consumers know just what they’re buying (you can read the petition here and sign it by clicking here). The petition asks that the FDA require a manufacturer that uses HFCS to state the fructose percentage in that HFCS formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.

This Citizens for Health campaign comes on the heels of the unsuccessful multimillion-dollar “corn sugar” scam attempt by the CRA, in which  it tried to have high fructose corn syrup relabled with that sweeter-sounding name. In rejecting Big Corn’s petition at the end of May, the FDA made it quite clear that HFCS is NOT sugar. The question of how much fructose this chemical concoction actually contains, however, is still unresolved.

Help prevent the use of unlawful HFCS formulations!

Even if HFCS has never crossed your lips, there’s a bigger issue involved here – truth in labeling – that affects all consumers. So please support and comment on this Citizens for Health petition to accurately label HFCS, even if you regularly avoid products that contain it.

If you never heard about HFCS with these higher fructose concentrations, don’t feel out of the loop, as most folks haven’t. A major part of the CRA’s big bucks campaign was to try and somehow sell the illusion that HFCS is the “same as sugar” with equal amounts of fructose and glucose (natural sugar, or sucrose, contains 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose).

Comments from the FDA and USDA, HFCS sales material and some studies have all indicated that these HFCS formulations with varying fructose amounts have been used for some time. For example: In 2010, Dr. Michael Goran, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center and professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, got a surprise when he found the fructose amounts in some of the HFCS-sweetened beverages his team analyzed coming in as high as 65 percent – almost 20 percent higher than if they in fact had contained HFCS 55. Calling it an “unexpected jolt of unhealthy fructose” in his press release, Goran’s landmark study got only limited press coverage.

“The only information we have,” Dr. Goran told me when I spoke with him this past November about his 2010 study, “is that industry says that sodas and beverages are made with HFCS 55, which suggests that 55 percent is fructose. That’s an assumption that everybody makes. So we decided we wanted to actually verify, measure the fructose content so we could get a better handle on how much fructose people were actually consuming every time they open a can of soda,” he said.

Goran who said he “totally supports” the Citizens for Health petition, also believes this labeling reform effort is “badly needed.”

“This petition makes perfect sense given the broad use of high fructose corn syrup in our food supply,” Goran told Food Identity Theft.  “Consumers need to be provided with accurate label information, especially with regards to fructose content.”

Another indicator of higher-than-allowed fructose formulations is a product called HFCS 90, an acknowledged 90 percent fructose HFCS formulation.

HFCS 90 isn’t new; it was developed in the 1970s, and one of the most interesting references to HFCS 90 comes from a leading manufacturer of high fructose corn syrup, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which has a page on its corporate website about its trademarked version of the product called Cornsweet 90.®
“Cornsweet 90 ®,” the site says, “containing about 90% fructose, is ADM’s sweetest high fructose corn syrup. Its high sweetness makes it the ideal choice for reduced calorie foods such as beverages, jellies and dressings.”

As for the FDA, they know about HFCS 90, too, saying they deliberately did not include it in the 1996 generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notice for HFCS. The FDA commented that HFCS 90 has “a substantially different ratio of glucose to fructose,” and that “the agency does not have adequate information to assess the safety…”

All of this leaves us with the question of what exactly is the fructose content of foods containing HFCS? Is it 42 percent, 55 percent, 65 percent, 90 percent,or somewhere in between? And what about those low-calorie and diet foods that ADM says its Cornsweet 90 ® is “ideal” for?

These are things every American consumer should have a right to know.  And by signing and supporting this Citizens for Health Petition, you’ll be making a statement that secrecy is impermissible when it comes to what we’re ingesting – and how much.