Study author supports HFCS fructose amount labeling petition

Posted by
December 11, 2012

1982 ad to sell food companies HFCS

Last week I wrote about a new study published in the journal Global Public Health that revealed how high fructose corn syrup may add an “additional contributing factor” to the development of diabetes.

That added risk factor, according to study co-author Dr. Michael Goran, likely comes from the higher, “more damaging” fructose content in HFCS, which for HFCS 55 (that is, with 55 percent fructose), is 10 percent more than real sugar.

“It is scientific, textbook knowledge that fructose is handled differently (by the body) than glucose, they are different,” Goran told Food Identity Theft last week.

But a 10 percent increase isn’t the whole story. While the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) lost their bid with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spending some big bucks in the process, to rebrand the chemical concoction with the name “corn sugar,” the issue of  how much of the “more damaging” fructose HFCS may contain is still unresolved and the subject of a pending petition at the FDA.

This past September, Citizens for Health filed a petition 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 revealing the actual fructose percentage in the HFCS formulation being used. (To read and comment on this petition at the FDA, click here.)

While the CRA continues to pitch the concept that HFCS is almost identical to sugar (which contains 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose), HFCS with higher fructose amounts have been around for a while, some containing as much as 90 percent fructose. One brand, Cornsweet 90, is advertised by its manufacturer, Archer Daniels Midland, as having “an intense sweetness that makes it ideal for sweetening foods and beverages without adding a lot of calories.”

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

The FDA is fully aware of the use of HFCS 90, which was deliberately not included in the 1996 generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notice for HFCS, which acknowledged that it has “a substantially different ratio of glucose to fructose” and that “the agency does not have adequate information to assess the safety…”

‘Tilting the balance’

“Who would argue that fructose consumption now is higher than it was ten or twenty years ago?” asks Goran, adding,  “I’m not talking about the subtle variations in year to year,” but rather “about  a huge shift in the food supply that is increasing the amount of fructose that we’re exposed to.”

While some of this fructose increase is coming from sugar,” according to Goran, “the excess is coming from HFCS. And that excess is tilting the balance toward a greater proportion of fructose to glucose.”

With HFCS now found in everything from bread to spaghetti sauce to drugs, many consumers are starting to demand greater transparency from food manufactures regarding its use. As one petition supporter put it in a comment posted at the FDA docket,  “It is only fair to require manufacturers to let consumers know exactly what and how much of this potentially damaging ingredient is included in their product. That way consumers at least will have true information when they make a choice to buy or not buy a product.”

In 1982, when HFCS was still a fairly new food ingredient, an ad by Cargill Corporation, one of its major producers, hyping the sweetener to food and beverage companies asked, “Corn in your cola?” and noted how “Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite and Fanta, they’ve all switched to the sweetness of high fructose corn syrup.”

In anticipation of even more big corporations not only putting corn in their cola, but all kinds of other foods and beverages, Cargill underwent a $90 million dollar expansion, declaring that “when this expansion is completed, Cargill will have a total capacity of 1.3 billion pounds of fructose a year. That’s enough to fill a train load that would stretch 154 miles.”

One can only wonder how much further that HFCS train has stretched (along with the waistlines of American consumers) in the 30 years since.

To read and comment on this petition at the FDA docket click here.