Despite corn refiners’ con job, tide turning against HFCS

Posted by
May 13, 2014


These must be pretty depressing times for the Corn Refiners Association.

It seems that each day another company or brand is dropping the test-tube industrial sweetener high fructose corn syrup in place of real sugar. Even the First Lady was overheard saying “Our bodies don’t know what to do with high fructose corn syrup – and don’t need it.”

To try and counter this tidal wave of consumer distaste for HFCS, the CRA has a new marketing campaign out called “Say vs Do.” It’s aimed at industry, and hopes to convince brands that consumers really have no idea of what they’re buying.

One, for example, shows two twenty-something shoppers named Walter and Stacey. Walter could care less about what he buys, but Stacy on the other hand even reads the ingredients on a bag of carrots.

And how does this epic one-minute video end? Eureka! Both walk out of the store with the same unnamed cola. But it looks like the CRA is fighting an uphill battle here. Even if Stacey and Walter don’t care what kind of cola they buy, there are millions of consumers who do. And I’m not just talking about soda.

For example:

  • Yoplait yogurt is removing HFCS from all of its products. The company posted a statement on its web site saying that the change came “straight from” Tweets and email from its customers.
  • Subway proudly announced that it is removing HFCS from the 9-grain wheat bread it bakes.
  • Pepsi is introducing a whole new line of soft drinks “made with real sugar” this summer.
  • Chick-fil-A recently announced that it is removing HFCS from its buns as well as a premium line of chicken sandwich called “Super Chix.” And…
  • the new line of Wild Oats products hitting Walmart stores this month makes a point of having HFCS on its list of “unwanted ingredients.”

And that’s not all.

This Easter, First Lady Michele Obama’s remark to celebrity chef Marc Murphy from the Food Network that our bodies do not need HFCS was heard far and wide – even as far as the CRA. The group’s new president and CEO, John Bode, wasted no time in snapping back, saying “It is most unfortunate that she was misinformed about how the body processes caloric sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup.”  In fact, the body does process HFCS differently — the fructose goes directly to the liver and begins building fat.

But despite miles of research showing just how differently the body does process HFCS from other sweeteners, it looks like the CRA has it story and is sticking to it. It matters not to them how many experts say otherwise.

And that brings us back to the CRA’s video campaign. Another one in the collection features its favorite spokesdoc, Dr. James Rippe, who, according to The New York Times received $41,000 a month as a retainer from the CRA, as well as over $10 million to help fund his “research.”

Looking straight into the camera with a bit of a smirk on his otherwise straight face, Dr. Rippe tries to tell us that HFCS is somehow “interchangeable” with sweeteners like natural sugar, honey and, yes, even molasses (the health benefits of which have long been extolled). Eliminating HFCS, he claims is “giving a free pass to the other sugars because they don’t contain calories or in some way that they’re healthier.”

Well, in the first place Dr. Rippe, we’re not simply talking about calories here, as if all calories were created equal, which they’re decidedly not. And, yes, those natural sweeteners definitely appear “healthier” than HFCS, which scientific studies have linked to a host of health problems, including the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes, neither of which existed before HFCS was introduced into our diets. (Yes these are correlations, not causes, but still information that consumers have a right to know, and which you are not telling them.)

“But the bottom line here,” Dr. Rippe says “is that if people are eliminating high fructose corn syrup from their diet because they think there’s some health benefit to (it), that’s a bargain with the devil.”

Ever one to overreach, Dr. Rippe seems to be saying, misleadingly, that cutting HFCS from your diet could cause you harm.

Hmm, but it makes you kind of wonder just who Dr. Rippe thinks he made his bargain with?