The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is a trade association based in Washington, D.C. and representing the corn refining industry in the United States. Corn refining encompasses the production of corn starch, corn oil, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Members of the CRA include Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Incorporated, Corn Products International, Inc./National Starch, Penford Products Co., Roquette America, Inc. and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas.
The CRA launched a public relations campaign in 2008 called “Changing the Conversation about High Fructose Corn Syrup” (HFCS). Initial commercials stated that HFCS was „natural“. In more recent commercials characters state HFCS is ‚made from corn, has no artificial ingredients, has the same calories as sugar and is okay to eat in moderation.‘
The CRA received heavy criticism for calling HFCS „natural“.
In direct response to the commercials, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest stated: „High-fructose corn syrup starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose and some short polymers of glucose. Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose…High-fructose corn syrup just doesn’t exist in nature.“ In April 2008, an employee of the United States Food and Drug Administration declared HFCS is not „natural“, stating: „The use of synthetic fixing agents in the enzyme preparation, which is then used to produce HFCS, would not be consistent with our (…) policy regarding the use of the term ’natural'“.
Other opponents of the commercials have complained that stating HFCS is natural is misleading, as radon gas, lead and tobacco are also natural. Therefore, even if HFCS is natural it should not be automatically assumed that it is safe to eat.
Stating HFCS contains no artificial ingredients has also been criticized, as it has been argued that such a statement implies HFCS is natural, when it actually contains synthetic and genetically modified ingredients.
The claim that HFCS is safe in moderation has also been criticized, as HFCS is used in tens of thousands of products in America, including soda, bread, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, fruit juice, cereal, meat products, chips, as well as „health products“ such as protein bars, the average American does not eat HFCS in moderation.
…unless you’re making a concerted effort to avoid it, it’s pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation.
On September 14, 2010, The Corn Refiners Association applied for permission to use the name „corn sugar“ in place of high fructose corn syrup on food labels for products sold in the United States. According to a press release, „Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,“ said CRA president Audrae Erickson. „The term ‚corn sugar‘ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from – corn.“
TIME stated that the CRA’s decision to change the name of HFCS was because HFCS had such a bad reputation. In response to the proposed name change, The New York Times ran an article asking nutrition experts what they would suggest as appropriate names for HFCS. Three of the five experts recommended alternate names, including Michael Pollan who suggested „enzymatically altered corn glucose“. Dr Andrew Weil recommended not changing from HFCS, calling the term Corn sugar „too vague“ and the CRA’s attempt to change HFCS’s name „Orwellian“. However Dr Barry Popkin felt that „corn sugar“ was an appropriate term.
On May 31, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration ultimately rejected the name change.
The CRA attracted controversy in 2010 for approaching bloggers who run mom blogs, through the organization MomCentral.com, a website that has drawn criticism as an advocacy vehicle of large chemical and pharmaceutical corporations. Bloggers were extended offers of $50 Wal-Mart gift certificates in exchange for writing about a CRA sponsored seminar that made the claims that high fructose corn syrup and table sugar were nutritionally equivalent and affect the body in the same way. This practice backfired, with several prominent bloggers writing scathing criticisms of the CRA’s methods as well as of bloggers who passed on the information presented in the seminar without conducting their own independent research.