Corn Refiners Association ‘experts’: HFCS ‘misunderstood’

Posted by
October 24, 2012

CRA 'spokesdoc' James Rippe, M.D. puts in a good word for HFCS

When National Public Radio (NPR) reported on the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling that high fructose corn syrup can’t be called “corn sugar” this past May, they commented that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), “much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character, (will) probably be baaack.”

As NPR guessed, the corn refiners weren’t about to give up the ship when it came to promoting HFCS. And despite the FDA’s official declaration that high fructose corn syrup is not sugar, they don’t seem to be about to stop equating their laboratory concoction with the real McCoy anytime soon.

To keep HFCS in the news in a positive way, the CRA appears to have called upon its stable of consulting experts, with James Rippe, M.D., author, Harvard Medical School grad and founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, emerging as the leader of the pack.

Recently Dr. Rippe has been really busy banging out pro-HFCS  “news,” most recently an article in Nutrition Journal and a commentary in the International Journal of Obesity that also has been written up in Food Navigator-USA under the headline; “Cardiologist: High fructose corn syrup is ‘one of the most misunderstood food ingredients’.” The primary purpose of such articles seems to be to debunk the idea that there is any real difference between HFCS and the real sugar it has replaced in so many products, or that the prevalence of HFCS in food and beverage products has anything to do with the current obesity epidemic.

“While the scientific debate is largely over, the public debate related to HFCS and obesity has, by no means, concluded,” Dr. Rippe writes in the International Journal of Obesity commentary. “There are literally thousands of postings on the internet related to putative links between HFCS and obesity as well as a variety of other metabolic abnormalities. Moreover, a number of manufacturers have yielded to adverse publicity and removed HFCS from their products and replaced it with sucrose despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the two sugars are metabolically equivalent.”

To assert that the “scientific debate is over” and imply that any controversy is merely Internet-generated rumor, is of course, is anything but accurate.  In fact, it sounds an awful like the premise of the CRA’s “Sweet Surprise” commercials that made all concerns about HFCS appear to be nothing but baseless rumors.  But then – talk about surprises –it turns out that the good doctor is actually identified with the “Sweet Surprise” campaign.

‘What we’re trying to do….’

Dr. Rippe’s ties to the Corn Refiners Association aren’t exactly hidden, and he does post on his web site for the Rippe Lifestyle Institute that his “partners” also include Pepsico and ConAgra Foods (saying that his institute’s research team “conducts multiple studies of mutual interest” with Pepsico). But an indicator of just how close he feels to his friends in Big Corn can be seen on a video interview he gave about HFCS. When asked about the CRA’s  “Sweet Surprise”website, Dr. Rippe replies, “And the reason we have that web site is…what we’re trying to do is encourage people to focus on the issues that really matter…”

Furthermore, a press release on the Rippe site for the Nutrition Journal article that claims “Our research debunks the vilification of high fructose corn syrup in the diet” calls (Rippe) “an advisor to the food and beverage industry including the Corn Refiners Association, which funded this research with an unrestricted educational grant.”

Other authors in the Obesity commentary include J. Foreyt  who is a member of the CRA’s scientific advisory panel and T.J. Angelopoulos, who, according to author and alternative physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, “got a $200,500 research grand from Rippe Health and Lifestyle Institute.”

And the “conflict of interest” section of the International Journal of Obesity commentary notes that “Dr Rippe and Rippe Lifestyle Institute received research grants and consulting fees from a variety of companies and organizations. Including ConAgra, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Weight Watchers and the Corn Refiners Association.” This led Dr. Mercola to ask in an piece about Rippe at whether the article was  “another Case of Industry-Funded Propaganda?” “There are actually clever forces at work behind the scenes that have carefully orchestrated this information to deceive you and the rest of the public,” Mercola added.

So the next time you hear “expert witnesses” brought in to tell you that any concerns you might have about HFCS are unfounded, you might want to consider whether they’re really offering an impartial scientific judgment – or speaking for a consortium that’s merely attempting to confuse the issue and “Rippe you off.”