Did they rename high fructose corn syrup?

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener made from corn starch. It has been used in food products since the 1970s as a replacement for sugar due to its low cost and sweetness. However, there has been some debate over whether HFCS is any worse for health than regular sugar. Some sources claim that HFCS has simply been “renamed” or rebranded to disguise its use, but this is not exactly true. HFCS has not been officially renamed, but there are some new versions of HFCS on the market aimed at appealing to health-conscious consumers.

What is high fructose corn syrup?

HFCS is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose syrup. Enzymes are then used to convert some of the glucose into fructose, which results in a sweet syrup containing both glucose and fructose. There are different formulations of HFCS containing varying percentages of fructose, including HFCS-42, HFCS-55, and HFCS-90. The number refers to the percentage of fructose present compared to glucose. For example:

  • HFCS-42 contains 42% fructose and 58% glucose
  • HFCS-55 contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose
  • HFCS-90 contains 90% fructose and 10% glucose

HFCS-55 is the most commonly used formulation in food products, such as soft drinks. It is similar in sweetness and fructose content to sugar (sucrose), which is 50% fructose and 50% glucose bonded together.

History of high fructose corn syrup

HFCS was first introduced on a large scale in the 1970s as an alternative to sugar. It was cheaper to produce than sugar since it relied on corn crops which were abundant and subsidized by the government. HFCS had similar sweetness and properties that made it easy to use, so the food industry quickly embraced it as a sugar substitute in products from sodas to condiments.

By the 1980s, HFCS had largely replaced sugar in many processed foods and beverages. The average American’s consumption of HFCS skyrocketed from less than half a pound per year in 1970 to over 60 pounds per year by the end of the 1990s. However, some consumers started to become concerned about health issues linked to high fructose corn syrup.

Why do some blame HFCS for health problems?

Several scientific studies have explored potential links between increased HFCS consumption and rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Some reasons why HFCS may be problematic:

  • Fructose metabolism differs from glucose – it is processed solely by the liver and can contribute to fatty liver disease over time.
  • Fructose does not stimulate insulin release like glucose, so it does not suppress appetite signals as much.
  • Fructose may interact with the hormones leptin and ghrelin to increase food intake.
  • The rapid introduction of HFCS into the food supply didn’t allow time to adjust metabolic pathways.
  • HFCS is found in many processed foods with low nutritional value.

However, there is no scientific consensus that HFCS alone causes health problems. Too many calories from any food source can contribute to obesity. Table sugar (sucrose) also contains fructose and in some studies has shown similar effects.

HFCS alternatives and new formulations

In response to concerns, the food industry has introduced some alternatives to traditional high fructose corn syrup:

  • Low-fructose corn syrup – Contains 42% fructose just like HFCS-42 but is marketed as more “natural.”
  • High maltose corn syrup – Contains 45% maltose which digests slower than fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrup-90 – Lower glucose content means it doesn’t spike blood sugar as quickly.

Food companies are also reducing HFCS in some products, using alternative sweeteners, or promoting HFCS-free formulations. This rebranding creates an image of greater healthiness, although the differences may be minimal.

Was high fructose corn syrup actually renamed?

High fructose corn syrup itself has not been officially renamed. The term “high fructose corn syrup” still appears on ingredient labels of products containing it. However, there are a few reasons why it may seem like HFCS has been rebranded or renamed:

New alternative types of HFCS

As mentioned above, new formulations of HFCS have emerged targeting the health-conscious market:

  • Low-fructose corn syrup
  • High maltose corn syrup
  • HFCS-90

These are technically still types of HFCS but use names highlighting lower fructose content or different sugar compositions. This makes them sound less “unhealthy.”

“Corn sugar” promotional campaign

In 2010, the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA to allow high fructose corn syrup to be renamed “corn sugar” for promotional purposes. They wanted the new term to ease confusion about HFCS and make it more appealing to consumers.

The FDA ultimately denied this request in 2012, stating there was no evidence of confusion about HFCS on labels and that “corn sugar” could not properly describe the product’s metabolic effects. While not an official rebranding, the attempted promotion of “corn sugar” may have led some consumers to believe HFCS had been renamed.

Less prominent ingredients labeling

Food manufacturers responded to HFCS backlash by simply highlighting it less prominently on their ingredients labels. Instead of calling out “High Fructose Corn Syrup” on the front of packages, it now often appears in small print among a list of ingredients.

Some brands use selective wording to advertise “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” on labels when they have merely substituted it with another sweetener. This downplaying creates an impression of removing HFCS even if it is still used in their products.

Use of alternate sweeteners

In products promoted as “reduced” or “low” in HFCS, food manufacturers sometimes add other sweeteners like sucrose (table sugar), glucose syrup, maltodextrin, or fruit juice concentrates. They keep the same sweet taste but can claim lower HFCS content. Consumers may assume the product no longer contains HFCS at all.

Are renaming attempts misleading?

Health and consumer groups have accused food companies of using misleading branding and promotions to make high fructose corn syrup sound healthier than it really is. However, the food industry defends these rebranding efforts as providing options to meet changing consumer demand.

Criticisms of HFCS rebranding

Public health advocates argue that rebranding HFCS is deceptive, even if not officially renamed:

  • New HFCS formulations have essentially the same fructose composition and health effects.
  • “Corn sugar” misleadingly implies a natural sugar like cane sugar, rather than highly processed syrup.
  • Downplaying HFCS on labels obscures its widespread use and high intake.
  • Alternate sweeteners provide only minimal reductions in fructose and HFCS content.

In their view, food companies are manipulating public perception through subtle rebranding techniques without meaningfully improving products.

Food industry defends HFCS rebranding

The food industry contends they are being responsive to consumers by providing HFCS alternatives:

  • New HFCS formulations give options for different nutritional needs.
  • Changing product labels and marketing reflects consumer sentiment.
  • Reducing HFCS meets demand for lower fructose diets.
  • HFCS alternatives and sweetener blends allow for gradual sugar reduction.

They stress that the FDA strictly regulates labeling to accurately reflect ingredients. Alternate names for HFCS like “corn sugar” are only used for advertising if allowed by regulators.


High fructose corn syrup has not been officially renamed at the federal regulatory level, but the term remains controversial with consumers. Food manufacturers introduced new HFCS formulations and reduced its use in response to public health concerns. While these changes provide lower fructose options, critics argue they are often misleading marketing tactics when HFCS remains a predominant ingredient. However, the industry feels calling out new HFCS formulations and sugar blends on labels provides transparency.

It’s unlikely a true HFCS rebranding will occur without backing from the FDA and sufficient scientific evidence differentiating newer syrups. But consumer wariness has forced incremental product changes. More dramatic shifts may gradually phase out high fructose corn syrup as ingredients improve. Either way, consumers must scrutinize labels closely for HFCS additions, whatever their current name.

Year Development
1970s High fructose corn syrup first introduced as low cost sweetener
1980s HFCS use increases dramatically, replacing sugar in many foods
1990s Average American’s HFCS consumption grows to over 60 lbs per year
2000s Studies link HFCS to obesity and diabetes
2010 Corn Refiners Association petitions to rename HFCS as “corn sugar”
2012 FDA denies “corn sugar” rebranding attempt
2010s New HFCS formulations introduced, food companies begin reducing HFCS
2020s HFCS remains prevalent in processed foods though often less prominently labeled

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