Sunday, January 31, 2010

Keep Talking: High-Fructose Corn Syrup Campaign Deserves a Hearing.

Going on almost 100 years old, the Corn Refiners Association is the US corn refining industry’s national trade association. Part of its job: A marketing campaign that presents the good (or not-bad) qualities of high-fructose corn syrup – HFCS. I’d pick a single sentence from a recent CRA press release to sum up this effort’s position:

Leading medical and nutrition groups, as well as some of the nation’s harshest food industry critics agree that high fructose corn syrup, a natural sweetener made from corn, is nutritionally the same as sugar.

For 18 months, the organization’s been sponsoring a darn good ad campaign, with commercials created by DDB and supported by a nice (if rather overcrowded) microsite. You can click here to watch the TV commercials; I think you ought to, since it’s worth noting how the creative has managed to get its points across.

The hype against HFCS is proof that the advertising campaign is needed; rumor and supposition have caused manufacturers to kick HFCS out of a large number of package goods (like Gatorade).

My own sudden awareness is the direct result of a short article in this month’s Consumer Reports. Equally surprising, Consumer Union recognizes that the anti-corn syrup hype exists and is not necessarily a good thing. The story says, “But tossing high-fructose corn syrup off ingredients lists may well have more to do with marketing than with science.”

The corn refiners’ ads make strong anti-rumor points, even though the campaign has itself been hammered by food activists who continue to insist that any “manufactured” food product or additive is very very bad.

This just isn’t true. There is room for scientific debate. The industry has every right to marshal its evidence and present them to (hopefully) thoughtful consumers. That’s the point of the ads, too: Touch the subject with a little thought, will you?


Cynthia1770 said...

Where can I start?
Perhaps with this. HFCS is "nutritionally" the same as other sugars. The CRA is using the word "nutrition" not for its global concept but because sugar, honey, and HFCS all have 4 kcal/g. It is deceptive because to the general public the word
"nutrition" implies more than how much heat is liberated from each gram of substance.
The CRA claims that amount of fructose and glucose in HFCS is
"essentially similar" to sucrose.
This is more than casually deceptive; it is false.
HFCS-55, used to sweeten all national brands of soda is 55% fructose:45% glucose. This appears to be close to the ratio of 50:50 found in sucrose, until you do the math. 55%:45% = 55/45 = 1.22.
This means that in every can of Coke (bottled only in the USA) there is, compared to glucose, 22%
more fructose. What does this mean in everyday terms? Drinking 5 cans of HFCS-sweetened Coke is equivalent to 4 1/4 cans of sucrose sweetened Coke + 3/4 can of pure fructose sweetened Coke.
Considering that the average teen chugs a few sodas daily, that is a lot of extra fructose assaulting the liver. Children and teens as well as adults have taken the brunt of the assault. Type II diabetes is no longer referred to as AOD, adult onset diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, HAFLD, has been diagnosed in children as well as adults.
If you look at the CDC graph
"Obesity vs. HFCS and sugar consumption", you'll notice that
in 1984-1985 obesity really started to climb. That is the year when the big boys, Pepsi and Coke, switched to HFCS-55.
Keep on writing your prize winning advertisements for the CRA, but
please,for you or your family's sake eliminate HFCS, especially HFCS-55, from your diet.
To your health.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Cynthia, that's terrific.

Thank you for your reasoned response. I'd like to put your comments in front of the CRA (if I can figure out how) to see if I can generate a response.

Meanwhile, I am grateful you stopped by.