A Small Battle Won in the HFCS Fight


If you ask Michael Pollan why high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in so many of the foods people eat today, he’d say it all began with a surplus of corn in the 1970s. Since then, the government has been trying to find myriad uses for it in our food system. Ultimately, the result has been infiltration of the addicting substance into many forms of processed food, which many people think is a primary cause of obesity in this country.

The food industry is starting to get the message. The New York Times reports that ConAgra, a food company that produces many leading brands such as Healthy Choice, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Hunt’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM, and Banquet, has “decided to reformulate one of its biggest brands, replacing the high-fructose corn syrup in Hunt’s ketchup with old-fashioned sugar. This month, new bottles featuring a banner proclaiming ‘No high fructose corn syrup’ arrive in stores. And Conagra isn’t the only company to replace HFCS as a sweetener. Gatorade, several Kraft salad dressings, Wheat Thins, Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Pepsi Throwback, Mountain Dew Throwback and the baked goods at Starbucks are all now made with regular sugar.

HFCS sales have fallen in the U.S., largely due to mainstream opposition through social media and because of movies like “Food, Inc.” and “King Corn.

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA), which represents the corn refining industry of the United States, has put more than $30 million into an ad campaign called “Sweet Surprise” since researchers suggested a link between America’s obesity problem and high-fructose corn syrup. Audrae Erickson, president of the CRA, was quoted by The Times as saying, “We’re really focused on trying to correct the record since a lot of the information consumers have is incorrect. High-fructose corn syrup is a case of mistaken identity.”

Although the CRA and many scientists claim that HFCS is no worse for people than sugar, Ivan Royster, who manages the Ban of HFCS Facebook page notes that it’s a highly processed ingredient invented in the late 1960s and introduced into the food supply in the ’80s. According to The New York Times, Royster says, “Our bodies have been adapted over the years to metabolize sugar, which is natural. But the body doesn’t know what to do with high-fructose corn syrup.”

And for many people who don’t pay attention to the ingredients in their processed food, they can easily become addicted. Even though sugar has an addicting effect, you gotta ask: Why is HFCS in so many foods? It gets back to politics and marketing: a surplus of corn dumped on the food industry that makes processed food for consumers who become addicted to repeat the cycle. We’re forever at the mercy of the food industry.

It’s time to stop buying processed food to send a message to the suppliers of it. It sounds like they’re starting to listen to us. Let’s keep the message going, loud and clear.

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