The Corn Refiners Association takes its show ‘on the road’

Posted by
February 1, 2013

Behind every big public relations campaign is a parent group – and the one behind the campaign to promote high fructose corn syrup, as regular readers know by now, is the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).  But if you thought the only way to know the CRA is through its online presence, you’re wrong –  because if you attend the right shindig, you can actually meet its representatives in person!

Events in which the group plans to participate this year include the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, the National Baking Industry Expo in Las Vegas, the Baking Tech Conference in Chicago and the School Nutrition Association National Conference in Kansas City.

That’s right, the School Nutrition Association.

If you’re wondering how “school nutrition” and HFCS go together, well, so are we. And it’s not the first time the CRA has attended this event, described as a gathering of “thousands of professionals representing the school nutrition community… to shape the future of healthy school meals and good nutrition for all children.” Back in 2008, for example, the CRA was one of the top sponsors of the conference.

One of the crusading registered dieticians for the CRA, Neva Cochran, who often takes her “choose your sweeteners by the company they keep” show on the road, discussed the 2011 School Nutrition Association meeting held in Nashville in her blog at the CRA website. Noting that over 3,000 nutrition professionals were in attendance, she made a point of how happy she was to work in the CRA exhibit booth to help answer the most commonly asked question about chocolate milk containing HFCS.

Now Ms. Cochran does much more for the CRA than just work its trade booths. She’s often ‘on the road’ for Big Corn, spreading the CRA word that “it’s all the same” when it comes to choosing HFCS over real sugar.

The annual School Nutrition Association expo isn’t the only health event you’ll find the CRA at either. Last year’s Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics food and nutrition conference also had a high fructose corn syrup booth and “sponsored” several sessions that counted toward “continuing education credits” said Rosanne Rust, another dietitian spokesperson for the CRA in her blog “Chew the Facts.”

One of those informative for-credit sessions presented by Dr. James Rippe, a CRA spokesdoc, was called “Fructose, Sucrose and HFCS: Danger or Distraction?” Rust invited all to stop by the CRA booth to “get copies of the latest science-based studies on high fructose corn syrup.”

Even though science does not appear to be on the side of HFCS, the CRA is very fond of the term. In last year’s directory for the School Nutrition Association conference, held in Denver, the CRA listing invited all to “visit booth 1009 to learn more about sweetenerstudies.com, a resource which provide a scientific examination of HFCS and other sweeteners…”

The CRA’s idea of a ‘fair and balanced’ analysis

SweetenerStudies, a serious looking site in gray and black, presents selected studies along with reviews by CRA consultants. In an attempt to appear objective, comments include study “strengths” along, of course, with “limitations.” An example of this seemingly ‘fair and balanced’ approach can be found in an analysis featured at the group’s website of a recently published study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed the bad effects fructose can have on the brain appetite control region.  The “strengths” section of the review, authored by Richard David Feinman, PhD, begins by noting that “the strengths in this study have to be seen in the context of its publication in a major medical journal and the significant media coverage,” and goes on to comprise all of two paragraphs. By contrast, the “limitations portion” runs to a full ten paragraphs (actually, eleven, if you include a totally negative second paragraph of the “strengths” section in which Feinman contends that “….the data are over-interpreted and the writing demonstrates substantial bias.”)

The JAMA study did hit the news services big time, with HFCS in almost every first paragraph and a wire story saying “Researchers say if you are trying to drop a few pounds, consuming foods made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup may help.”

But while the CRA may go to great lengths to refute the ongoing research bashing HFCS, there’s really nothing they can do to stop the tide that has been turning against this test-tube sweetener for some time now.

For example, popular author and integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D, also commented on HFCS and the JAMA study at his web site, saying that he was “concerned that this highly processed substance has disruptive effects on metabolism, in part because the body doesn’t utilize fructose well, and humans have never before consumed it in such quantity.

“Clinical studies,” Weil added, “strongly suggest it promotes obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes; disturbs liver function, and elevates serum triglycerides in men. The latest study is further evidence that HFCS isn’t good for us.”

So if you’re in Kansas City this July when the School Nutrition Association national conference is taking place, be sure to visit the Corn Refiners Association booth; tell them we don’t want HFCS in our chocolate milk – in fact, that we don’t want it in anything.

And be sure to add that’s what science is really telling us.