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There has been a lot of back and forth about real and perceived differences between sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) over the years – including here at Grist, where Tom Laskawy has explored the contentious topic at length. And while the science is definitely still unfolding, the fact that the Corn Refiners Association has shown a strong interest in blurring the line between the two is certainly compelling reason to suspect there are, in fact, some noteworthy differences.
As of Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees. The agency released an official response to the Corn Refiners Association’s 2010 request to refer to the substance as “corn sugar” with a resounding no. The reasons they gave read as benignly technical, but also hint at the differences in the kinds of processes needed to make sugar and HFCS (one being a highly industrial, synthetic process resulting in a food that could not exist in nature if we wanted it to). The statement reads:
the use of the term “corn sugar” for HFCS would suggest that HFCS is a solid, dried, and crystallized sweetener obtained from corn. Instead, HFCS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose.