The bad press about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is having an effect. According to figures assembled by Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, sales of products bearing “HFCS-Free” labels almost reached a billion dollars last year. Fruit drinks are the biggest HFCS-free category, but HFCS-free yogurts, vegetable juices, and breads are the fastest growing. Lempert doesn’t say what companies are using instead of HFCS. If it’s sucrose, it won’t be much of an improvement. But no wonder the Corn Refiners think they need a hefty public relations campaign.
Food Chemical News (December 1) reports that Jason’s Deli, which has more than 200 outlets throughout the U.S., is banning high fructose corn syrup from all its products as well as trying to figure out how to get it out of soft drinks. Apparently, the chain polled customers and 65% (of nearly 3,000) said they wanted it gone. A spokesman for the chain said they consider pure cane syrup and sugar to be “more real and…not as processed or fooled with as high-fructose corn syrup.” Maybe, but they have the same number of calories and the same effects in the body!
So many people have sent me the link to the Corn Refiners’ Association website extolling the virtues of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that I thought you had best not miss it.OK, so lots of people think HFCS is the new trans-fat. It isn’t, but is insulting your intelligence an effective way to deal with that concern?It’s hard to know what on the website is most offensive: the videos of dumb people being condescended to by friends who think they know better (and what’s up with the race and gender combinations?), the slogans (“HFCS has no artificial ingredients and is the same as table sugar”), the quiz questions (“which of the following sweeteners is considered a natural food ingredient: HFCS, honey, sugar, or all of the above”), or the take home message: “As registered dietitians recommend, keep enjoying the foods you love, just do it in moderation.”
Let’s agree that HFCS has an enormous public relations problem and is widely misunderstood. Biochemically, it is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories), but it is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it—nearly 60 pounds per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar. HFCS is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not.
According to SourceWatch, this website is part of a $20 to $30 million campaign to make you stop thinking there is something evil about HFCS.Are you convinced? If the essence of public relations is to get attention – and there is no such thing as bad publicity – they got it with this website.
And thanks to my colleague Andy Bellatti who points out that another website run by the Corn Refiners provides a disclaimer: “Materials on this site are provided for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice and are not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.” Oh. Maybe that explains it.
Try to get your mind around this one. To make high fructose corn syrup, it is necessary to (1) extract the starch from corn, (2) treat the starch with an enzyme to break it into glucose, and (3) treat the glucose with another enzyme to turn about half of it into fructose. OK class, explain how this can be considered natural? Answer: because the enzymes are fixed to a column and do not actually mix with the starch. Oh. So the FDA considers HFCS natural because Archer Daniels Midland and the Corn Refiners Association asked it to. Regime change, anyone?
A federal judge in New Jersey rejected a complaint against Snapple that its claim to be “natural” is false because the drinks contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and HFCS is no way “natural.” If the FDA won’t decide what “natural” means, we certainly aren’t going to , says the judge. So, FDA, how about it?
According to Food Navigator, the FDA says it’s too busy to deal with the question of whether high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be labeled as “all natural,” something the Sugar Association and Sara Lee would dearly love to be allowed to do. This non-action, in effect, is the FDA’s way of just saying no. HFCS, as the FDA points out, requires enzymes to break starch into glucose and to convert some of the glucose to fructose, and that ain’t necessarily natural. The Sugar Association is “deeply disappointed” in the FDA’s decision. Why am I not surprised?