Since its nationwide introduction in 1972, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become a cheaper, more widely used alternative to sugar in processed foods from yogurt to pasta sauce to soft drinks. In recent years, studies linking HFCS to a rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and dental cavities have assigned a most-unsavory reputation to the sweetener. The Corn Refiners Association – the lobbying arm of Big Corn – was forced to go on the offensive in 2008 when it launched its widely-mocked “Sweet Surprise” ad campaign in an attempt to reassure consumers that HFCS is “nutritionally the same as table sugar” and “your body can’t tell the difference.” According to research conducted by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, HFCS and sucrose (table sugar) do contain the same simple sugars – fructose and glucose – but the ratio of the compounds differs by 5 to 30 percent. The imbalance in HFCS causes a disruption of the body’s metabolic process and upsets the production of insulin, leading to a number of health problems in both children and adults.
In response to public awareness, a move to avoid HFCS, and increasing demand for products which do not contain the liquid sweetener, the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA in September 2011, to substitute the name “high-fructose corn syrup” with “corn sugar” on ingredient labels. Some critics of HFCS have accused Big Corn of attempting to mislead consumers with the new, less tainted name, and Big Sugar is taking the case head-on, seeking an injunction against the name change. The legal battle over the label is set to erupt in a U.S. District Courtroom in Los Angeles the first week of April.