NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- High fructose corn syrup by any other name would taste as sweet. But it probably wouldn't attract so much negative publicity.
The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration, asking it to allow manufacturers the option of using "corn sugar" as opposed to high fructose corn syrup on ingredient lists. The move is the latest in the association's battle to change the public's perception and understanding of HFCS.
The association says research confirms the current labeling is confusing to consumers. For example, despite the fact that HFCS and table sugar have the same amount of fructose, nearly 58% of consumers believe that HFCS has more fructose.
"It is clear that the name high fructose corn syrup confuses consumers and is misleading," said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association. "It suggests it's high in fructose, which it is not."
It's not the first time the idea of calling the ingredient "corn sugar" has been raised, according to Al Ries. In the mid-1970s he worked with CPC International (formerly Corn Products Co.) to launch a series of trade advertisements promoting the corn-sugar concept. There were even informal discussions with FDA officials, who told them they could not call HFCS sugar, he said.
"My feeling is that HFCS took off so rapidly and was so successful with the Cokes and Pepsis that [the Corn Refiners Association] forgot about the issue of the name," Mr. Ries said. "They should have done something about the name as early as possible."
Still, despite that history, Ms. Erickson is confident the FDA will approve its petition. "We're clearing up misconceptions with the public," she said.
The FDA has 180 days to respond to the petition. According to Ms. Erickson, the FDA has only changed the name of an ingredient twice in history. Once was changing prunes to "dried plums" in 2000, the other was changing low erucic acid rapeseed oil -- talk about a terrible name -- to "canola oil" in the late 1980s.
Canola oil became more popular after its name change, though it's not clear whether a name change would be a cure-all for HFCS. The ingredient has been beat up in the media. And brands that once embraced it have been dropping it and even boasting about it.