I know you remember the commercials — a smug wife schooling her husband on the "facts" about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), arguing that it’s "made from corn" and "fine in moderation." You know, straight from nature ("New ad campaign supports high fructose corn syrup", 10/15/2008)!
But no matter how many ads they put out, we weren’t convinced. More and more studies since then have linked HFCS to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and liver scarring. In fact, about this time last year, a study in which rats were fed "normal" levels of HFCS (of course, I’d argue the only "normal" level should be absolutely no HFCS) linked the stuff to one of the biggest killers of our time ("How many deaths will be traced back to HFCS?" 4/5/2010).
Still, the Corn Refiners Association just kept on chugging along, eventually deciding last year to rebrand HFCS as "corn sugar." You see, all the bad press actually started to get to them, and sales started dropping.
But this new approach didn’t sit well with sugar farmers. Late last month, "Big Sugar" issued a press release revealing the filing of a suit against "Big Corn." They don’t want the corn processors marketing HFCS "as a ‘natural’ product equivalent to real sugar."
They’re calling it "false advertising," and are calling Big Corn out for "distort[ing] scientific facts." They say Big Corn claims that HFCS is extracted from corn in a simple process and is a natural sugar — and they don’t want anybody claiming anything other than plain old sugar is a "natural" sugar. They’re looking for damages including money for corrective advertising.
And okay, I agree with them — to a point. The process to create HFCS isn’t a simple one, and the result is anything but a natural product. And the statement the Corn Refiners Association sent to consumer watchdog website The Consumerist is downright laughable.
In it, they actually claim that HFCS has a place in healthy foods: "High fructose corn syrup makes many healthy foods palatable and affordable for American consumers." They go on to claim that Big Sugar is standing in the way of "consumer clarity about added sugars in the diet."
Yep, you read that right. The Corn Refiners Association is actually claiming to stand up for consumer clarity. I’d like to think this battle couldn’t get any more ridiculous, but I know that it will.
How could it not?
I mean, like I said, I agree with Big Sugar to a point — their claims against HFCS are valid. But it’s a classic case of the pot and the kettle. They can’t slap a halo on sugar and a pair of horns on HFCS and call it a day. After all, sugar’s a major player in obesity, diabetes, immune system problems — many of the same issues for which HFCS has been in the spotlight.
The bottom line is that anything so refined as HFCS or white sugar can’t possibly be healthy… and most certainly can’t be called natural! To suggest otherwise, as Big Sugar is attempting, is downright ridiculous.
Maybe the two will end up taking each other out in this fight. I know it will never happen… but a girl can dream, can’t she?
Ms. O’Brien has written for Nutrition & Healing, Healthier Talk and a variety of other natural and alternative health outlets. She believes in the power of natural medicine and her goal is to open people’s eyes to the benefits of alternative and integrative medicine.
Christine is passionate about helping people help themselves without having to turn to harsh drugs or invasive surgeries.
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