As a fourth generation Iowa farmer, it’s hard for me to stand by as opponents attack high fructose corn syrup with inaccuracy after inaccuracy. And when they attack it, make no mistake: They are disparaging corn and our way of life in Iowa.
We are now in the midst of harvesting one of Iowa’s most valuable commodities — a high quality and safe product, a product that rightly instills pride among millions of Midwesterners. But when it comes to high fructose corn syrup — also a high quality and safe product made in our state — misinformation abounds. Foes of HFCS are throwing around bad science and are attacking corn, our livelihood.
Mark Twain wisely advised: “When in doubt, tell the truth.”
A petition before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeks approval to allow the alternate name “corn sugar” for “high fructose corn syrup” as an option on food ingredient labels.
The truth is the term “corn sugar” more accurately describes what this ingredient actually is — a sugar made from corn. Ingredient names on food labels should be clear and reflect in no uncertain terms what the ingredient is. You can’t get much clearer than “corn sugar.” This alternate name will enable consumers to better identify added sugars in the foods they purchase and clear up lingering consumer confusion.
To further support the “corn sugar” label, look at the science. The two ingredients contain almost equal parts of the two simple sugars, fructose and glucose. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from corn or cane.
Iowans have an economic stake in the pending FDA decision. If we can help clear up the confusion among consumers, we will be able to maintain the more than 2,600 jobs that the corn refining industry currently employs with potential for further growth. These jobs create nearly $170 million in salaries and are considered to be high-paying. $1.9 billion worth of value is added to the 162 million bushels of Iowa corn used to make HFCS.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley also recognized the vital economic impact of HFCS in his letter to the FDA supporting the name change: “In addition to clearing up consumer uncertainty about this ingredient, it is worthwhile to note the role that high fructose corn syrup plays in our nation’s food supply. This ingredient keeps food affordable for American consumers and creates high-paying jobs here at home.”
When it comes down to it, much of the consumer confusion has to do with the name. High fructose corn syrup is neither high in fructose relative to regular table sugar, nor is it the corn syrup in the baking section of the grocery store. It is an inaccurate label ingredient name that we in the corn business have been stuck with for decades, and it is time to correct it.
Gov. Terry Branstad said the name change is essential both for Iowans and for consumers across the nation. “I believe FDA action to allow the use of the term ‘corn sugar’ is imperative to stop the disparagement of this American made ingredient that increases consumer choices, drives affordability and helps the rural economy,” he wrote the agency.
There is precedent for what the corn industry is asking the FDA for. The agency granted permission to plum growers to label prunes as “dried plums.” Prunes are indeed dried plums, but the word “prune” sowed much confusion because many consumers apparently don’t think of them that way.
But despite the laudatory efforts to clear up considerable confusion — an effort that the New York Times editorial board endorsed, by the way — our foes are stepping up the disparagement of corn. How? By attempting to block the alternate name.
Iowans must let their voices be heard in this debate by posting comments to the FDA docket in support of the “corn sugar” petition at www.ncga.com/corn-sugar
Iowans and consumers around the nation deserve the truth. “Corn sugar” belongs on food ingredient labels because it is a truth.