Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon
Health

The Sneaky Rebranding of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

An update on Big Corn’s quest to continue fueling our tasty beverages:

The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten its image with a new name: corn sugar.

The Corn Refiners Association applied Tuesday to the federal government for permission to use the name on food labels. The group hopes a new name will ease confusion about the sweetener, which is used in soft drinks, bread, cereal and other products.

The CRA wants to legally re-brand HFCS as “corn sugar” to avoid the negativity associated with consumption of HFCS that have appeared over the past years, as they believe recent scientific evidence has vindicated their industry.

Given San Francisco’s recent decision to ban McDonald’s Happy Meals (why don’t they want the children to be happy?), it seems sensible for food producers to do everything they can to remove themselves from the radar of overzealous,  nanny-statist food regulators. The above article indicates that the FDA will take two years to consider this request though the CRA may now use corn sugar in their advertising until a decision is reached.

I never liked chemistry class, so my knowledge of the controversial dangers of HFCS come from reading smart people who don’t seem to have a big stake in the game. As far as I can tell, the arguments against HFCS is that it might (but probably isn’t) be linked to higher cases of obesity, by not making you feel as full, when compared to “normal” sugar consumption. An abstract from a literature review, “Fructose and Satiety“:

The consequences of fructose and glucose on eating have been studied under a variety of experimental situations in both model systems and man. The results have been inconsistent, and the particular findings appear to depend on the timing of saccharide administration or ingestion relative to a test meal situation, whether the saccharides are administered as pure sugars or as components of a dietary preload, and the overall volume of the preload. These factors rather than intrinsic differences in the saccharides’ ability to induce satiety appear to carry many of the differential effects on food intake that have been found. On balance, the case for fructose being less satiating than glucose or HFCS being less satiating than sucrose is not compelling.

The bolded are the important parts. Google, in general, also seems to be a good litmust test for who is right in these types of situations. If you google “avoid hfcs”, the 2nd ranked selection is this posting. Their #1 reason for avoiding HFCS is that “The Process of Making High Fructose Corn Syrup is Pretty Weird.” That’s probably true, but its not a convincing argument suggesting HFCS is worse for you than other types of sugar, and I’m going to be real hungry if that is my litmus test for consuming food products.

The somewhat invisible obese-from-sugar-consumption elephant in the room is that the government plays a big role in the decision to use HFCS the first place. These situations are like sweet, delicious, fattening gravy for libertarians. You have the government with one hand promoting anti-obesity campaigns encouraging us all to eat well and lose weight.

With the other hand, the government is using the price system (known for being more effective than vocal White House campaigns) to implicitly support your obesity by keeping the price of HFCS low. Before the government expands itself further into our lives through condescending campaigns about getting our exercise, might they consider not encouraging excessive caloric consumption in the first place?

HFCS does have some unique qualities that regular sugar doesn’t have such as a longer shelf life and its ability to withstand higher cooking temperatures. However, a large factor in its use is that corn is highly subsidized by government while the price of sugar is kept artificially high through our domestic sugar policy. Until that is rectified, HFCS corn sugar will remain a significant part of the average American’s diet.