by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Sep 4 2008

HFCS: Sweet surprise?

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.

Aug 8 2008

FDA changes mind; says HFCS is natural after all

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?

Jul 26 2008

“acute” fructose makes fat

A recent study from the Journal of Nutrition helps to explain some of the fuss about fructose (as opposed to glucose). If you eat a lot of it all at once, it gets converted to fat. The lead author, Elizabeth Parks, explained to the New York Times what this has to do with obesity: “I think it [fructose] may be a contributor, but its not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein and we’re overeating all sugars.”

Jun 19 2008

Is HFCS “Natural?” Court says it’s up to FDA

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?

Apr 8 2008

More on the FDA and “Natural”

As you can see from the comments on the previous post, questions remain about whether a statement by an FDA official to FoodNavigator about the agency’s position on use of the word “natural” to describe products made with high fructose corn syrup counts.   FoodNavigator thinks it does. I do too.