Saturday, September 13, 2008

"A Sweet Suprise"?

Today I saw am add for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). See here... I almost fell off my chair. I paused it and called CSA-Farmer Hubby in to watch it...

The commercial shows two moms at a party.

Mom 1: (happily pouring drinks into a cup.)
Mom 2: (accusingly) "Wow, you don't care what the kids eat, huh?"
Mom 1: (pleasantly) "Excuse me?"
Mom 2: (patronizing) "That has High Fructose Corn Syrup in "
Mom 1: (pleasantly) "And..."
Mom 2: (confused) "Well you know what they say about it..."
Mom 1: (pleasantly) "Like what?"
Mom 2: (Doesn't know what to say, stammers) "You know that it..."

Mom 1 (still pleasantly and like she is taking to a child): "That it is made from corn, doesn't have artificial ingredients, and like sugar is fine in moderation..."

Mom 2, unable to respond, picks up a glass and drinks, changing the subject.

Funny thing is that the way the world works these days is that a lot of half truths never seem to add up to the truth.

Believe me, I KNOW that giving up HFCS is hard. It was one of the first major dietary changes we made. It pushed us to cooking much of our food and forced us to organics in lots of items (tomato sauce, ketchup, ice cream, more) and home or small producer made in others (jellies, jams, breads, baked goods, more.) With the possible exception of giving up CAFO meats, it was the hardest dietary change we have made...

The piece states that the three things (1: it is made from corn; 2: it doesn't have artificial ingredients; 3: it like sugar is fine in moderation) equal one truth: Don't let the scare mongers scare you, it is fine!

This scare monger will say one thing to you before I start on the rest of this post: it is not going to kill you (or even hurt you) if you use a little bit of it once and a while, so if someone brings something to office, help yourself, you will be fine. But the message I got out of the commercial was "Don't worry about it, it's in stuff but its no big deal, sugar's in stuff to!"

So lets start at the beginning:

1. It's made from corn: . If you have a picture in your head of a corn mill somewhere where sweet corn is being squeezed for its juice which is then processed and refined, get that out of your head. The process is nothing as simple as squeezing sugar canes or beets for their juice and refining it (although that to is a complicated process and a reason we are eating more and more organic cane sugar.) It is a multi-stepped process requiring vats enzymes, and sophisticated processing facilities, there is a reason people did not start making it until the 1970s!
This article from the Weston Price Foundation explains the process.
Just a note, Being made from corn, does not mean we should, eat it. They make plastics from corn, ethanol is made from corn (glass of gas anyone?), and many packaging materials have corn starch... That sounds like a yummy lunch to me...

2. It doesn't have artificial ingredients. I guess it depends entirely on how you define "artificial." But the USDA has determined that it is not a "natural" ingredient... So I guess my question is if not natural then what? Or maybe the argument is that it IS an artificial ingredient and does not have any others in it, I'm not sure...

3. It's fine in moderation, like sugar. Lots of things we choose not to eat are fine in moderation. Lard for example is fine in moderation. Does that mean I want to give my kids a glass of lard juice?

The corollary argument made else where in the campaign is that it is nutritionally the same as sugar. This argument is made, I suppose, because table sugar is nothing more the calories from a purely nutritional standpoint, and HFCS is carefully formulated to the same calories per gram as table sugar. However, many people have suggested that the sugars in table sugar do not compare to the double whammy of HFCS.

The fact is we are not consuming it in moderation, and it is in almost everything. If tomorrow all the HFCS was removed from your grocery store shelves... Well you'd be shopping in the ethnic aisle mostly with a little help from canned veggies, fruit packed in water, and the organic section. The snack food, bread, convience food, frozen food, and refrigerated food areas would be decimated. But the fact is that we are not so much substituting HFCS syrup for sugar as adding it to... Our national sweet tooth is growing... Do an experiment. Try to go a week without using any product with it (be sure to read all labels) and see how moderate your use of it really is...

I guess my point is, you should make your own decision, but from facts, not from a 30 second commercial telling you it is OK or (what is in some circles now) a trendy choice. Know your reasons...

Here is some more research for you to do:
Gotta love Wikipedia
List of products
Finally read the Omnivore's Dilemma (or listen to it on your iPod,) Pollen has a long section on HFCS.


Anonymous said...

Hear hear! I saw the print ad version in a magazine & just had to shake my head... I guess the Corn Man is feeling the heat?

NEOcreativegenius said...

Yet another reason to leave the TV off (except to put in a DVD). I think this T-shirt I once saw in a shop sums it up best: "Theatre is life, film is art, television is furniture."

Cheers, Meg

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Very nicce!