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Letter from FDA Clarifies Natural Status of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Jul 28, 2008

Products using high fructose corn syrup may be labeled "natural" as long as the sweetener didn't come in contact with synthetic fixing agents when it was made, according to the Food and Drug Administration. An FDA labeling expert recently issued this clarification to expand on her controversial statement earlier this year that FDA would object to companies using the term "natural" on products containing high fructose corn syrup.

In a July 3 letter to the Corn Refiners Association, Geraldine June, a supervisor in FDA's Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, said the process used to make high fructose corn syrup would be relevant in determining whether a company could label a product as natural. June explained that FDA would continue to object to calling a product 'natural' if it contained high fructose corn syrup that has a synthetic substance included in it or added to it.

"We have stated in the past that the determination on whether an ingredient would qualify for the use of the term 'natural' is done on a case-by-case basis," the letter states. "Ingredients with the same common or usual name may be formulated in different ways, where a food containing the ingredient formulated one way may qualify for the use of the term 'natural' and another food containing the ingredient with the same common or usual name, which has been formulated in a different way, may not be eligible for the use of the term 'natural.'"

The controversy stems from an article that appeared at in April. In the article, June was quoted as saying FDA "would object to the use of the term 'natural' on a product containing HFCS [high fructose corn syrup] because it is produced using synthetic fixing agents." The Corn Refiners Association objected to this characterization and requested a meeting to demonstrate that high fructose corn syrup is a natural sweetener. After meeting with association officials and representatives from Archer Daniels Midland Company, who presented a process where the synthetic fixing agent glutaraldehyde does not come in contact with the ingredient, June issued her clarification.

"Sugar and other sweetners are important ingredients for the dairy industry," said Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling. "It's helpful to have a clarified position from FDA on natural ingredients."

High fructose corn syrup is used in flavored milk, yogurt and ice cream.


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