Step Aside, High Fructose Corn Syrup: 6 Name-Changing Foods

The names of these six foods were changed to appeal to consumers.

ByABC News
September 15, 2010, 5:46 PM

Sept. 16, 2010— -- If you're the industry demonized as a driver of the obesity epidemic, image gurus might tell you it's time for a makeover -- starting with a new name.

Manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup are doing just that. This week, they petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be allowed to use the alternative name "corn sugar."

You can find high fructose corn syrup on the labels of baked goods, cereals, jams, soft drinks, sauces, condiments and ice creams -- one of the foods to which it provides bulk. The Corn Refiners Association, which also makes ethanol, starch, corn oil and corn-based animal feed, feels its sweetener is misunderstood.

Audrae Erickson, president of the association, said "the term 'corn sugar' succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from -- corn."

The association created the website to counter the common misperception that all high fructose corn syrup contains more fructose -- a simple sugar found in fruit -- than table sugar, which is a 50-50 compound of fructose and glucose. Honey has 47 percent fructose, while agave has 75 or more percent. One type of high fructose corn syrup, called HFC-42, is 42 percent fructose, 53 percent glucose and 5 percent other sugars.

On the other hand, another type, HFC-55, is 55 percent fructose, 42 percent glucose, and 3 percent other sugar. And beyond the percentages, a number of nutritionists believe a growing body of research shows there is a difference between table sugar and high fructose corn syrup when it comes to promoting obesity.

High fructose corn syrup, of course, is not the only product to get a new name from its manufacturers in order to make it more palatable to consumers. The following pages showcase several more foods that have received new names intended to change their reputations.

Another manufacturer, Merisant, sold it under the brand name Equal. Eventually, agricultural giant Monsanto bought out Searle and continued to market NutraSweet.

Japanese manufacturing giant Ajinomoto bought the aspartame business from Monsanto and in November 2009, announced it was giving the product a new name: AminoSweet. That name was chosen to reflect the product's composition: It's made from the amino acid phenylalanine and aspartic acid. One longtime caution that appears on the label of every product containing aspartame notes that people who born with a genetic inability to break down phenylalanine, called phenylketonuria, must avoid it.

Of the change, Brownell said: "I don't know the impetus for this one ... They've been losing market share because of sucralose [Splenda] being out.

"They may want to give their product a health aura. It sounds science-y."

First, it comes from a plant in the mustard family called the rape plant -- a name with obvious negative connotations.

Second, unrefined rapeseed oil, when heated to high temperatures, has been associated with lung cancer, so cooks are urged to lower frying temperatures when using it.

Finally, the unrefined oil contains 30 percent to 60 percent erucic acid, which has been linked to heart lesions in lab animals.

In the 1970s, Canadian scientists began cross-breeding plants, replacing erucic acid with oleic acid to create a low-erucic acid product. The Canadian seed oil industry dubbed the new product "canola" in 1978 because it was a Canadian oil, and in 1986 it hit the U.S. market.

Despite misperceptions that it's dangerous to human health, canola has more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than most oils -- olive oil being a notable exception -- and has lower saturated fats than other oils.

But over the years, prunes became associated in the popular imagination with aging. We talk about having skin "as wrinkled as a prune." Also, because prunes are extremely high in fiber, older folks drink prune juice or eat a handful of prunes to relieve constipation.

After some market research, the California Prune Board gave the prune a name makeover. It restored to the prune the identity of the fruit from which it originated, the plum. In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration granted the board permission to use the term "dried plums" for prunes.

Also, the board began calling itself the California Dried Plum Board.

In the late 1970s, an American fish seller working in Chile renamed the Patagonian toothfish the Chilean sea bass. In the years that followed, a fish that was traditionally considered a "bycatch" species -- one not expressly targeted by fishermen -- became the most lucrative species caught in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters.

Today, the U.S. imports about 11,000 tons annually of fresh and frozen Chilean sea bass, which has meaty white flesh and is high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

But although the Chilean sea bass moniker stuck, the name for this predatory, deep-sea fish hasn't been accepted by federal agencies, including the Commerce Department's National Fisheries Service. On a Chilean Sea Bass fact sheet, it notes that the Patagonian toothfish "is not really a bass and is not always caught in Chilean waters," and is a different species than sea bass in this country. Much of it comes from Antarctic waters -- where it's technically the Antarctic toothfish -- and is then frozen and shipped.

By various accounts, including that of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, members of this species live 100 years or more.

By the time this slow-grower is caught in cold, deep waters, the fish often is 30 or more years old. And it's a late-bloomer socially; it doesn't start reproducing until it's 30.

Speaking of fish, there's currently another re-naming effort afoot. Great Lakes states including Illinois are hoping a name change will drive a market for the Asian carp, a non-native species introduced by catfish farmers in the Mississippi River basin to control algae growth. But the fish escaped, and as of late they have invaded the Illinois River and threaten the Great Lakes.

The state of Louisiana is promoting Asian carp as the silverfin. Over in Kentucky, it's being called "Kentucky Tuna." Stay tuned.