by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sugars

Aug 17 2017

Cane versus beet sugar–A difference?

As a result of yesterday’s post, readers asked questions about sugar.  Here’s one:

Q: Is there a difference between cane and beet sugar?

A: It depends.

Both are 99.95% sucrose.

But the plants are different.  Sugar cane is grassy; sugar beets are a root vegetable.

The sucrose is extracted and refined by different methods.

And that remaining 0.05%: chefs say it makes a difference in cooking properties.

The San Francisco Chronicle did some comparative baking and then ran blind taste tests.

These showed big differences, with cane sugar a clear winner.

Who knew?

Just for fun, here’s another difference: sugar beets are about 95% GMO; sugar cane is non-GMO.

Related image

Also for fun, here’s cane-plus-beet versus high fructose corn syrup:

You know the drill.  Everyone would be healthier eating less sugar—no matter whether it comes from cane, beets, or corn.

Aug 16 2017

Sugar industry: here’s what we think about advice to eat less sugar

I am a faithful subscriber to Jerry Hagstrom’s Hagstrom Report on issues having to do with agriculture.  He attended the International Sweetener Symposium in San Diego and took notes.  If you want to know how the sugar industry is dealing with the “eat less sugar” message, here are some hints (wish I’d been there):

From José Orive, executive director of the London-based International Sugar Organization:

There is “sugar diarrhea” in the media, Orive said, referring to the many articles urging reductions in sweetener consumption.  “We need to talk the bull by the horns in pointing out the role of sugar in human nutrition” and talking about the importance of exercise.

From Craig Ruffolo, an analyst with McKeany-Flavell in Oakland, CA:

We need to get back to positivity, not negativity. The sugar industry has a really great message. It starts with 15 calories per teaspoon.

From Courtney Gaine, president and CEO of the Sugar Association:

“We have this obesity crisis that has become a massive economic problem,” Gaine said. The pressures on governments to address the human and economic costs of obesity have combined with “a public health community that does not trust industry” she said.

A lot of the food companies “who should be our friends” are instead reformulating products and advertising they are using less sugar, she said. Coca-Cola is replacing its “Coke Zero” with a label that reads “Coke No Sugar” and is already supplying Delta Air Lines with napkins bearing that slogan.

From Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, a Chicago market research firm:

“Products making low sugar claims won’t be going away anytime soon”…The “no high-fructose corn syrup” claim “is not losing its power.”

Hagstrom’s summary comes with references:

▪  American Sugar Alliance – “An Evaluation of the Global Sugar Market Environment” by José Orive
“Sugar Market Outlook” by Craig Ruffolo
“The New State of Play for Sugar: Trends, Policy, Consumption and Activism” by Courtney Gaine
“Consumer Trends and Industry Response” by Ron Sterk
“Trends in sugar, sugar reduction, and sweeteners” by Lynn Dornblaser

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Jul 21 2017

Healthy Food America’s resources for advocates

Healthy Food America is relatively new on the food advocacy scene but I am always impressed by the useful resources it produces.

It is my go-to place for information about soda taxes and other ways to reduce sugars and sugary drinks.

It offers, for example:

Useful?  Yes!

Jun 14 2017

Sugar policy again: this time Mexico

I can’t believe that I am writing about sugar policy again.  The Trump Administration has just gotten a preliminary agreement with Mexico about the sugar it exports to us.

Mexico says OK, (1) it won’t make us pay as much for it, and (2) it will restrict how much refined (white) sugar it sends.

This is great for U.S. sugar processors who turn raw sugar into white.  They want Mexico to send raw sugar so U.S. processing plants stay busy.

But food and beverage companies making products will have to pay more for sugar.  They belong to the Coalition for Sugar Reform, which is not happy about the agreement.

Under NAFTA, Mexico could sell unlimited amounts of sugar to us.   But our domestic sugar producers complained the Mexicans were “dumping” subsidized sugar and undercutting their prices.  In retaliation,

  • We threatened to impose tariffs.
  • Mexico threatened to stop buying our high-fructose corn syrup (it currently buys 80% of our HFCS).

Three years ago, we got Mexico to agree to set minimum prices and limit the amount of sugar it sells to us.  The new arrangement confirms that deal, at least for the moment.

As for us public health types, sugar policy is endlessly weird.  Domestically, we don’t produce enough sugar to meet demands so we have to import sugar from other countries.  We keep domestic prices high through quotas, buy-backs and price-support loans.  This ought to discourage consumption, but does not.

How come?  Because the higher price, amounting to billions a year overall, works out to only about $10 per year per capita.

This is not high enough to:

  • Reduce sugar consumption
  • Improve health
  • Generate outrage

Want to read more about this?

 

May 25 2017

IFIC’s annual food-and-health survey: always intersting

The industry-funded International Food Information Council has just announced the release of it 12th annual Food and Health Survey.  This asks people what they think about a wide range of consumer issues related to food and nutrition.

The report is full of interesting tidbits about how Americans think about food issues.

Or this one:

This one is impressive:

And here’s my favorite:

Lots of interesting material here, all to be taken with some degree of caution since the data come from an online survey taking 22 minutes to complete.

May 11 2017

USDA’s fascinating food-and-agriculture charts

USDA researchers produce lots of data and sometimes summarize it all in handy charts.

Here are three examples:

  1.  Who makes money from food?  Food services—34.4 cents on every dollar.  Farmers?  8.6 cents on average.

 

2.  How sweet is the food supply?  Less than it was in 2000 but more than in 1990.  Most of this can be explained by the decline in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

 

3.  What happening with food assistance?  The peak in federal spending for all of the programs came a few years ago, but the amounts are now declining.    SNAP is the big one—about $75 billion last year.

Ag policy in snapshots.  More to come.

Apr 6 2017

FoodNavigator USA’s Special Edition on Sweeteners

FoodNavigator-USA, a food-industry newsletter that I read regularly, publishes occasional “Special Editions,” meaning collections of articles it has published on specific topics.  This one is on Sweeteners and Sugar Reduction,

Food and beverage manufacturers have a far wider range of sweetening options than ever before, from coconut sugar to allulose, monk fruit and new stevia blends. This special edition looks at the latest market developments, the changing political landscape, formulation challenges and consumer research. It will also address some labeling and regulatory issues affecting the market, from new FDA requirements to list added sugar on the Nutrition Facts label and the extent to which the ‘GMO factor’ is impacting purchasing decisions for sweeteners.

Feb 24 2017

Weekend Reading: Food-Navigator–Asia’s Special Edition on Sugar Fads

It’s a quiet news day so let’s enjoy one of Food-Navigator’s occasional special editions in which it collects articles on a specific topic, in this case sugar marketing trends in the Asia-Pacific region:

Special Edition: Asia-Pacific’s sugar fads

From breakthroughs in ingredients to lively debate over ways to keep consumers healthy, Asia-Pacific has gained a new confidence in its approach to sugar and sweeteners. We explore this spirited segment in a new FoodNavigator-Asia special edition.

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