Archive for August, 2012

Don’t want HFCS in your food? Then take action here!

Posted by -- August 30, 2012

Despite the fact that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) was foiled in its attempt to steal the name “corn sugar” for its laboratory-created sweetener high fructose corn syrup, the CRA has not given up the ship when it comes to finding new ways to promote its controversial concoction.

While the FDA at the end of May turned thumbs down on the CRA petition that attempted to “officially” rename HFCS “corn sugar,” the latest tactic from Big Corn is to hit food and beverage manufacturers, grocery retailers and chain restaurants with the message that most consumers no longer care about HFCS, don’t bother checking food labels for it, and those that do avoid it are merely a “small but vocal minority.”

After a short time licking its wounds from the FDA bashing, the CRA has done a total makeover of its industry-geared “Corn Naturally” website –now trying to convincing its viewers that “96% of consumers aren’t avoiding HFCS.”

A big slice of hype from the Corn Refiners Association.

Free lunch with a healthy helping of hype

Aside from its web and advertising efforts, the CRA is also hosting “lunch & learn” sessions for businesses. That’s right, a free lunch hosted at your business location complete with loads of research all designed to answer your “top concerns” about HFCS. It seems the CRA will spare no expense (or HFCS-sweetened food and drink) when it comes to delivering this ‘consumers don’t care’ message to industry.

The newly designed cornnaturally.com site is an all-business black and white affair with its previous ‘down home’ look, farmer- in- a-cornfield graphic and cheery corn cobs peeking around the corner now gone. It comes complete with sections for manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants, as well as data from the CRA’s favorite research company, Mintel, which  is heavily quoted throughout.

In the “chain restaurant” section, we’re told that “97% of consumers don’t check for HFCS on the menu (it’s listed on menus now?); food and beverage manufacturers are asked, “can you afford the high cost of hype?” and are further informed  that (once again) “97% of consumers don’t check the label for HFCS,” and grocery retailers are told that “shoppers aren’t buying HFCS-free products.”

While the CRA spent over $60 million to try and make its “corn sugar” dreams come true, it didn’t work. Consumers, health and advocacy groups and health professionals all rejected the attempted alias, and now it’s time to make sure that food purveyors don’t buy the group’s tossing aside of their concerns.

You can help stop the “high cost” of this hype  by signing our petition to tell the food industry that “we don’t want high fructose corn syrup in the foods we buy!”

The goal is to reach 100,000 signatures by the beginning of October. The petition will then be delivered to the CEOs of some of the largest food and beverage companies and grocery and restaurant chains as well as the FDA.

Consumers told the CRA what they thought about the “corn sugar” name switch, and now it’s time to let the food manufacturers and retailers know that, yes, we do care what’s in our food, and we DON’T want high fructose corn syrup there!

Those supposedly ‘healthy’ products could simply be junk food in disguise

Posted by -- August 28, 2012

The world’s oldest question may still be “what’s for dinner,” but a modern-day version seems to be, “what’s safe to eat for dinner?”

Supermarkets today are stocked with an array of ersatz and deceptive products, and the worst of the lot seem to be the kind that try and entice you with “healthy” sounding names and claims. “All-natural,” is a popular one (and also a term that is the subject of numerous class-action claims filed by consumers), along with  “healthy,” “light,” and a new favorite, “contains antioxidants.”

As author Michael Pollan advised in his book In Defense of Food, you should be selecting real foods when you shop, not “foodish products.” If you don’t have the time or resources to cross all processed foods off your shopping list, you probably carefully choose items that seem to be the “healthiest” on the shelf.  But seemingly “healthy” foods aren’t always what they appear to be.  Some, in fact, may actually contain as much in the way of undesirable additives as those junk food items you routinely make such a point of avoiding.

An example is a name that has long been considered in the “good for you” category – Campbell’s V-8 juice – a drink supposedly chock full of veggies (which are mostly tomatoes) in liquid form.  Now while the standard version, and even some V-8 variations, might be able to pass muster for many “careful” shoppers, a splashy but less savory member of the V-8 family has now entered the picture – one appropriately enough called V-8 “Splash.” Because it bears the V-8 name and logo and makes some healthy-sounding label claims, you might automatically assume that this “refreshing blend of delicious fruity flavors with a hint of carrot” along with some “Antioxidant Plus” would be the perfect alternative to those high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)-laden soft drinks on a hot summer day. Well, guess again – because it so happens that HFCS is the second ingredient in “Splash,” right after water.

Another V-8 relation is the blend of tomato and clam juice known as Clamato, manufactured by Mott’s (which was acquired by the candy and soda company Cadbury Schweppes in 1982).  Of course, we all know that tomatoes are good for us, and shellfish lovers will tell you the same holds true of clams. A glance at the ingredient label, however, tells us that the third and fourth ingredients in this “tomato cocktail” are HFCS and monosodium glutamate. Even if you don’t make a point of drinking this beverage, the Clamato web site is filled with recipes using this MSG-cocktail in meat, fish, shellfish and chicken dishes, calling it the “secret ingredient.” It’s just one more reason why those with extreme sensitivities to MSG take a chance eating anything they have not made themselves.

It may be ‘vegan’, but that doesn’t make it healthy

The word “vegan” on the label, signifying that a product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients, might seem at first glance like an easy indicator of a healthy selection, even if you don’t follow a vegan diet. Meat substitutes, however, are often hotbeds of bad ingredients, a good example being  Boca Original Vegan Meatless Burgers found in the frozen-food case. These “burgers” are actually loaded with flavor-enhancing additives such as soy protein concentrate, yeast extract, and hydrolyzed wheat protein – all of which contain free glutamic acid, often called “hidden MSG.”

Finally, there’s dessert – and what could be a healthier one than yogurt, with all those live, active cultures providing you with the beneficial bacteria you need to ward off pathogens in your digestive system? And to up the ante, how about making it a “light” yogurt from one of the better-known brands — like Yoplait Light, or Dannon’s “Light & Fit.”

If you bother looking beyond those seemingly healthy brand names and images, however, you’ll find that such “light” yogurt products contain the synthetic sweetener aspartame, which has been linked to a variety of adverse reactions and ailments, as well as acesulfame potassium,another artificial sweetener.

The bottom line, once again, is that you can’t take it for granted that a food product is “healthy” simply because it falls into a category (or under a brand name) of things that are supposed to be. If you want to be sure that whatever processed foods you  and your family consume are truly the best options available, you’ve got to take that little bit of extra time to check the ingredients label to make sure that what you’re buying isn’t simply junk food in disguise.

Or take a tip from Pollan and “get out of the supermarket whenever possible.” Because “you won’t find any high fructose corn syrup at the farmers’ market.”

Confusion continues over ‘sugary drinks’ while ‘unsugary’ ones get an undeserved pass

Posted by -- August 21, 2012

With the media still focused on the latest attempts at banning so-called “sugary drinks,” kicked off by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the end of May, a new report, with possibly much bigger implications for kids, slipped by with just a fraction of the Bloomberg press attention.

The study, published this August in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that kids are drinking more artificially sweetened beverages than ever, twice as much as ten years ago –  an “unexpected” finding according to one of the researchers.

Rising adult consumption trends were looked at as well, and it was found that 25 percent of adults in 2008 said they had consumed a diet drink in the past day, versus 19 percent in 2000.

While the researchers didn’t take a stand on the potential adverse effects of children consuming larger quantities of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, senior researcher Dr. Miriam B. Vos, of Emory University was quoted in a Reuters article as saying  “there are no studies that have looked at the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners in growing children.”

If Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, the numbers of kids downing artificially sweetened sodas may double again. That’s because Bloomberg, in his campaign against supersize “sugary drinks,” which in reality are syrupy drinks – as in high fructose corn syrup – would exempt artificially sweetened ones in his big-size soda ban, a little fact that didn’t get much attention amid all the hoopla over the announcement.

The whole sticky confusion over the difference between high fructose corn syrup and real sugar has traveled far and wide, having originated it appears, with none other than the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Calling “sugary drinks” a “consumer-tested message,” John S. Webster, director of Public and Governmental affairs for the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, also told us that “the term ‘sugary drinks’ is not a defined term.”  It was chosen to “convey the idea” of drinks that contain “added sugars” – meaning any beverage sweetened with ingredients listed in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which includes honey, molasses, corn sweetener, and high fructose corn syrup, for example,” he said.

And  Dr. Vos, senior researcher in the August study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine, has managed to carry the confusion even further.

How’s that again?

In a video at her university page called “Sugar: too much for our kids,” she starts out by saying “sugar is under a lot of different names on food. Some of the common ones would be sucrose, sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup (and) corn sugar is a newer one that’s being used…”

The “corn sugar,” to which Dr. Vos refers was the “new name” that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) had hoped to officially confer on HFCS, a plan that fell apart when the Food and Drug Administration rejected the CRA petition at the end of May. And in doing so, the FDA made an official and clear distinction between HFCS and real sugar, a difference apparently too difficult for most in the media to comprehend (to say nothing of researchers such as Dr, Vos, who perhaps haven’t been following the latest developments).

But while there may still be a great deal of confusion about the meaning of terms like “sugar,” “sugars,” and “sugary” in the coverage of the controversy over the slurping of soft drinks, that reported rise in the consumption of artificially sweetened ones may well be a ‘side effect’ of all the hype, one that appears to have fallen through the cracks of public concern. And that could be an most unfortunate oversight.

Just consider, for example how aspartame – still the leading synthetic sweetener in most diet beverages and other products – was described in a 2010 story posted at the Citizens for Health website about a call by New Zealand non-governmental health organizations for artificially sweetened beverages to be curtailed, and replaced with those containing natural sweeteners:

“Aspartame has been linked to many health symptoms, including those expressed as ADHD, anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion, memory loss, insomnia, dizziness, migraines, cramps, abdominal pain, numbness or tingling of extremities, rashes, chronic fatigue, and sight and personality changes.”

If Mayor Bloomberg and other like-minded officials are genuinely sincere about limiting the health risks to both children and adults posed by the guzzling of supersized sodas, a little research into the subject would tell them that they really ought to include those “large, unsugary drinks” as well.

No, don’t eat ‘That,’ but in many cases don’t eat ‘This,’ either

Posted by -- August 17, 2012

Twinkies -- just one of the bizarre food swap choices from Rodale

It’s the nutritional guide that Americans probably rely on more than any other to help them make daily food choices – Rodale’s  paperback book series,“Eat This, Not That!”

But just how reliable are the “simple food swaps” recommended in the pages of these books to make you “an expert in every eating situation”? Can you really be assured that they’re providing you with the kind of  “essential” information you need to “make smart nutritional choices no matter when or where you’re faced with them”?

To find out, we reviewed some of the contents of just one book in the series — the edition of “Eat This, Not That!” specifically intended “for Kids!” And what we discovered was that some of the “this” the book advised consumers to feed their kids was as bad, ingredient-wise, if not worse, than the “that” they were urged to avoid.

To read the introduction to this particular volume, you might well get the impression that author David Zinczenko (the editor of Men’s Health), co-author Matt Goulding (a “trained chef and food journalist”) and the large group of individuals who helped compile it (including the “Rodale book team” and the “entire Men’s Health editorial staff”) had gone to great lengths to identify the food products that will enable you to avoid not only high-caloric, high-sodium foods but those with unhealthy and undesirable additives. But a scrutiny of the actual ingredients contained in some of the recommended items gives the impression that the advice the book offers isn’t always in agreement with its purported aims.

To cite just one example, the book takes food processors to task for having contributed to today’s excessive caloric consumption by adding high fructose corn syrup to “an unbelievable array of foods – everything from breakfast cereals to bread, from ketchup to paste sauce, from juice boxes to iced tea.” Yet, in a casual scan of just a few of the supermarket items recommended in the “Eat This” category, we came upon a couple items that contain HFCS: Campbell’s Tomato Soup with 25% Less Sodium  (“Of the soup aisle’s many takes on tomato, this classic can is tops,” says a blurb in the book) and Nabisco SnackWells Crème Sandwich cookies.  And that’s not to mention Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken Noodle Soup, which also lists HFCS among its ingredients and appears as one of the book’s “11 Foods That Cure.”

Another example is the introduction’s observation that “we’ve laced our food with time bombs,”including trans fats, which “increase your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol, and greatly increase your risk of heart disease.” Fine so far, right? But then, there on page 190, among the  various cookie choices that the authors claim are preferable for our kids,  we find two sources of partially hydrogenated oil that represents the major source of those trans fats – Nabisco Ginger Snaps (“as far as classes of cookies go, ginger snaps are about as safe as it gets,” goes the accompanying explanation), and, again, those Snackwells, while on another page – recommended cookies and crackers from vending machines – we find Pepperidge Farm Milanos, which contain fully hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil. There’s also Hershey’s Chocolate Drink, first among the “Drink This” selections on page 246, whose ingredients include partially hydrogenated sunflower oil. (Of course, that “loophole” in the regulations allows companies to claim zero trans fats if their products contain less than .05 grams per serving, a measure which can be easily exceeded in  actual consumption).

Some undesirable additives you won’t even find mentioned in the book

Not included among the dietary “time bombs” referred to in the introduction is monosodium glutamate, and the various other ingredients containing free glutamic acid.  This is a glaring oversight, to say the least,  since these flavor enhancers (labeled “excitotoxins” by many experts) are being diligently avoided by parents. And yet, you don’t have to look very far to find them in various products in the book’s “Eat This” category such as Campbell’s Chunky Soup with Grilled Sirloin Steak and Hearty Vegetables, which contains monosodium glutamate and Campbell’s Dora Fun Shapes, whose ingredients not only include MSG, but two “hidden sources” of free glutamic acid — yeast extract and soy protein, as well as Morningstar Farms Veggies Dogs, which contains free glutamic acid in the ingredients hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy protein isolate, autolyzed yeast and autolyzed yeast extract.  Yet another repository of MSG is the above-mentioned Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken Noodle Soup.

Also not mentioned in the book is the artificial sweetener aspartame (also categorized as an “excitotoxin”), which is present in the Jello Cook  & Serve Sugar-Free, Fat-Free Chocolate Pudding suggested on page 192 – along with three artificial colors.

(A call we placed to the Rodale Press regarding such inconsistencies and oversights was not returned.)

All of which isn’t to say that many of the foods recommended in this book – including some organic products – aren’t wise choices.  The problem, however, is that anyone who depends on it as a definitive guide to what they should and shouldn’t be feeding their family has no way of knowing which of the foods they’re being advised to eat really belong in the “Eat This” category.

Perhaps such discrepancies are due to the fact that “Eat This, Not That” is obviously not just the work of one or two authors, but is put together by a committee, some of whose members may not have been tuned into all of the concerns mentioned here  – or, for that matter, in the book itself, whose opening section likens the struggle of parents to instill healthy eating habits in their kids to trying to keep a boat afloat when a group of people are busy “punching holes in the hull.”

But then, there’s the little video that appears on the “Eat This, Not That” website, in which a narrator named Clint Carter compares two “decidedly unhealthy pastries,” noting that “if you have a sweet tooth, like a lot of us do, there is a smart decision you can make.” And that is to choose the Twinkies over Cosmic Brownies, which can “save you 130 calories “ as well as cutting out “a lot of fat and a lot of sugar.” But while Clint acknowledges that both products are unhealthy, he neglects to mention that the Twinkies are a virtual mother lode of additives (as are the brownies),  including HFCS, trans-fat generating partially hydrogenated oil, soy protein isolate and sodium caseinate, and two artificial food dyes.

Viewing that video, one can’t help but wonder how an operation like Rodale, which began as an organic gardening enterprise and still pays high tribute to the virtues of the organic lifestyle, could have reached the point where one of its most popular spin-off  ventures actually hypes the comparative health benefits of eating a Twinkie.

There is, however, a good piece of advice we can take from this book.  You’ll find it right there in the introduction, which notes how “anything you have for your kids to drink in your fridge right now … probably has HFCS in it,” and advises us to “Go ahead – read the label.”

We completely agree with that recommendation.

“No HFCS” an encouraging trend, but it’s up to us to sustain it

Posted by -- August 14, 2012

Post wants to make sure that shoppers know its Raisin Bran cereal contains no HFCS

Will consumer rejection of high fructose corn syrup cause it to be phased out of non-organic processed foods, or, as the Corn Refiners Association claims (and hopes), will it remain a significant part of our collective diet as the public’s concern about it peters out?

That, it would appear, is largely your call.

Canvassing items in the supermarket, it seems as though food producers are now in the process of testing the waters, so to speak – that is, seeing what the consumer response is to products that make a big point of having no HFCS, while going about removing it from other items quietly and without any fanfare.

One example of the first strategy is what Welch’s is doing with its Concord grape jelly  and strawberry spread.   It now offers shoppers a choice between the “conventional” varieties, both of which list HFCS among their ingredients, and (for a slightly higher price) its “Natural” Concord grape and strawberry spreads, whose labels prominently advertise the fact that they contain “no high fructose corn syrup.”

But the product that makes perhaps the most prominent appeal to those wishing to avoid HFCS is Post Raisin Bran whole grain wheat and bran cereal, which features  the words “Contains NO HIGH FRUCTOSE Corn Syrup” in a  kind of ‘banner headline’  over its logo. This particular item, in fact, is notable for its lack of additives, its ingredients consisting of whole grain wheat, raisins, wheat bran, sugar, wheat flour, malted barley flour and salt.

Still another Post posting to this effect is “Our Promise: No High Fructose Corn Syrup” that can be found on the company’s Honey Bunches of Oats (both the regular and cinnamon varieties).

Other companies, however, have apparently chosen to be less up-front about the fact that many of their products currently do not contain any HFCS.  Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, for example, has none listed among its ingredients, which include “brown sugar syrup” instead, but makes no mention of that fact on the front of the box.

Nor, for that matter, does Kellogg’s seem to want to trumpet the fact that the HFCS is now gone from its other cereals as well, a process completed last year, according to a spokesperson in the company’s consumer affairs department.

A surprising acknowledgment

“We did remove it from all of our cereals,” the representative told us, and when we further inquired as to why that had been done, the answer we got is that Kellogg’s “works diligently” to stay on the “cutting edge” of current research, maintaining a team of food scientists for that purpose, “and we think there might be a link to the obesity factor.”  The spokesperson added that the rise in obesity might also have other causes, and that the company has no “direct proof” of the role of HFCS – but whatever those scientists discovered apparently provided sufficient justification for Kellogg’s to quietly go about eliminating this laboratory sweetener from its cereal line.

That, and the fact that “we’re aware that there are consumers out there that don’t want high fructose corn syrup.”

As to why Kellogg’s hasn’t bothered “actively labeling” the change the way its competitor Post has, one reason might be that HFCS hasn’t been totally eliminated from other Kellogg’s products, such as Keebler Cookies and Pop Tarts. Those popular breakfast treats still contain it,  we were informed,  because the company hasn’t yet found a replacement ingredient that “gives them the same texture and brown look that customers expect and are accustomed to.”  Not that Kellogg’s isn’t continuing to search for one.

So while the trend is encouraging, it’s by no means definitive.  It appears that the nation’s food manufacturers have indeed begun moving away from the use of HFCS, but are watching to see how customers respond – and if, in fact, they really care one way or the other. So let’s let them know where we stand on this very important issue through both the selections we make and by communicating to them directly how we feel about the ingredients in their products.

Trying to avoid almonds that are ‘gassed’? Here’s a little guide

Posted by -- August 7, 2012

Although you certainly can't tell by looking at them, these Diamond of California brand almonds were fumigated with PPO gas.

Since my blog at the end of July about the forced “pasteurization” of most domestic almonds with either a steam treatment or fumigation with toxic propylene oxide (PPO) gas, Food Identity Theft readers have been asking about specific almond brands – if they are gassed or steamed.  And as I topped my organic oatmeal and cranberry cookies with Diamond brand sliced almonds, I had the same question. After all, who wants to go to all the trouble of whipping up something with carefully thought-out ingredients, only to realize the almond part of the recipe has been soaking up a chemical used in the production of antifreeze and hydraulic fluid?

Since 2007, the “almond rule” has mandated that most almonds grown in California’s 400-mile-long Central Valley region (where just about all domestic almonds come from) receive one of these pasteurization treatments. Organic almonds are always steam treated, and truly raw almonds can still be purchased either at farmers markets or farm stands in California (in quantities of 100 pounds or less) and also can be imported from abroad.

Growers can also ask for an exemption for almonds that receive further processing such as roasting, blanching, or other heat treatments, but it is entirely possible that roasted almonds, or even ones incorporated into foods (such as crackers and cookies) have been “pasteurized” with one of the above methods beforehand.

When we put the question to the customer service departments of several popular brands of almonds sold both in stores and online, here is what we were told:

Costco brand Kirkland Signature: Both the Kirkland Signature chocolate-covered and whole almonds are fumigated with PPO, which a spokesman said he was told doesn’t remain in the nuts, despite the fact that almonds containing residues of up to 300 parts per million of this chemical, which California regards as a “known carcinogen,” can be legally sold.

Planters: The age-old Planters brand (now a division of Kraft Foods) told Food Identity Theft that all of its almonds are steam treated, even ones that receive further heat treatments such as oil or dry roasting.

Diamond of California: All Diamond brand almonds receive the PPO gas treatment. A Diamond, spokesperson added that it’s possible the company’s Emerald line of roasted almonds (referred to as “snack nuts”) may be “pasteurized” as well, but they have not confirmed that as of yet.

Blue Diamond Almonds: While its sliced and slivered almonds are steam pasteurized, its whole-nut “natural” line is treated with the toxic PPO gas, according to a representative. Other Blue Diamond Almonds products such as Almond Breeze, Nut Chips and Nut Thins, however,  use steam-treated almonds, with any whole “naturals” going to Canada being steamed rather than fumigated.

Whole Foods store 365 brand: All Whole Foods-labeled almonds are steam-treated, since the use of PPO gas, according to a company spokesperson, would be “completely unacceptable to our standards.”

Back to Nature: After a very long wait (and some very bad call-waiting music), we were informed that this brand, which is also owned by Kraft Foods, only uses the steam method.

Superior Nut Company: Every single one of Superior’s non-organic almonds are fumigated with PPO. However,  the organic selection sold in bulk at the company’s website, NutsinBulk.com, is not fumigated. In fact, if these almonds are indeed imported from Spain as the company told us they are (although it’s not confirmed at the website), they could be truly “raw” and not even be required to receive the steam treatment.

Trader Joe’s store brand: Trader Joe’s reported that “no almond with our name on it” would ever receive the gas treatment, meaning all of the company’s branded almonds are steam-treated.

A group of almond growers will be headed back to court shortly over this “pasteurization” issue, arguing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture overstepped its authority when it required the California Central Valley growers to treat their almonds. Citizens for Health and its board chair, Washington D.C. Attorney Jim Turner, are among groups that have filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the almond growers.

In the meantime, this information might come in handy if you’re looking for almonds that haven’t gone to the gas chamber.

Case to proceed against four CRA members accused of false ‘sugar’ claims

Posted by -- August 2, 2012

Back in March, attorneys for several major manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup named as defendants in a landmark legal action asked that the case against their clients be dismissed on grounds that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) alone was behind continued claims that “your body can’t tell the difference” between HFCS and sugar. But this week, the judge hearing the case found that, in effect, she couldn’t tell the difference between the association’s assertions and those of four of its member companies who had actively supported the effort.

As a result, the lawsuit will now proceed against agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill, along with Corn Products International, Tate & Lyle and, of course the CRA itself, all of which have been accused of false advertising by producers of actual sugar.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in a Los Angeles courtroom was described by Adam Fox, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, as “an important win for all American consumers, as well as my clients.” What it means is that membership in a trade association can’t be used to shield companies from liability for wrongdoing in which they’ve played a role. In this case, the alleged wrongdoing is the (still) ongoing misrepresentation of HFCS as a form of sugar, despite the Food and Drug Administration’s having recently ruled that HFCS is most decidedly not sugar in rejecting the CRA’s petition to have its name changed to “corn sugar.”

Besides asking that the court enjoin the defendants “from continuing to make false and/or misleading representations of fact about HFCS, the plaintiffs in the case are also seeking “damages for the harms they have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of Defendants’ false and/or misleading advertising, promotion and/or marketing.”

In refusing to dismiss the case against the four corporate defendants, the court cited individual allegations made against each of them —  for instance, how both Cargill and Corn Products websites “provide direct links to the (CRA’s) ‘Sweet Surprise’ campaign website to expand exposure to and the audience for the false advertising campaign.” In addition, Cargill and others, including Tate & Lyle, are accused of using “spokespersons to disseminate the advertising theme that HFCS is no different than sugar” while ADM, Corn Products, and the other companies involved are said to have “similarly repeated, endorsed, and ratified the messaging of the advertising campaign in direct communications to customers, ranging from detailed presentations to simple correspondence.”

The plaintiffs have further claimed that Cargill and Tate & Lyle “used spokespersons to disseminate the advertising theme that HFCS is no different than sugar” and that ADM, Tate & Lyle, Cargill, and Corn Products have “ratified the rebranding of HFCS” by using the phrase “corn sugar” in place of HFCS.” They’ve also charged that senior executives or other authorized spokespersons for member companies have at times “endorsed, supported and ratified the name change.”

Undeterred by courts and regulators, the ‘Mother Ship’ stays the course

Of course, one need look no further than the “Sweet Surprise” website itself  – the HFCS ‘Mother Ship’, so to speak – to see how obstinately persistent the CRA itself has been in holding onto that thought.

“Take a closer look, HFCS is simply a form of sugar made from corn” is the first thing that pops up when you click on it. And under the heading “What is HFCS?” you see the headline “Sugar is sugar,”  with copy describing high fructose corn syrup as  “a sugar made from corn” and the sentence, “In fact, due to their similar structures, many health professionals agree that whether it’s sugar from corn or sugar from cane, your body can’t tell the difference—your body metabolizes both the same way.”

Then there’s the response to Judge Marshall’s edict from CRA President Audrae Erickson that “This ruling is solely about who is included in the lawsuit and has no bearing on the merits of the case which are about ensuring that consumers get the facts regarding high fructose corn syrup.”  Consumers,  Erickson added, “have a right to know what ingredients are in their food and beverages, especially as we’re seeing more and more people concerned with managing their sugar intake. It’s essential for consumers to understand that high fructose corn syrup is another kind of sugar despite the processed sugar industry’s attempts to censor our education campaign.”

Now let’s for a moment consider that response in light of the precise wording of the FDA’s May 30th letter to Erickson, in which it formally denied the CRA’s long-standing request to change the name high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.” In addition to reaffirming the fact that “corn sugar” already was the official name for dextrose, a non-fructose ingredient, the letter notes that “FDA’s regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.” Therefore, “the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.”

Given those very specific and unequivocal reasons from the FDA as to why HFCS and sugar aren’t the same thing, I have a question for Ms. Erickson: What part of “would not accurately identify or describe” don’t you understand?