Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Corn and Big Sugar: Fighting (sweet) tooth and nail

The Consumerist reports that Big Sugar is none too sweet on Big Corn's attempts to rebrand high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar". In fact, Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C & H Sugar Company, Inc. are suing rcher Daniels Midland, Cargill, Tate & Lyle and the Corn Refiners Association in U.S. District Court for false advertising.

"This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple," sayeth the President and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative. "If consumers are concerned about your product, then you should improve it or explain its benefits, not try to deceive people about its name or distort scientific facts."

The commercials in question are linked to the images below. (The Corn Refiners don't like embedding.)

Watch "Maze" (new window)

The corn people are, obviously, not amused:

"The name 'corn sugar' more accurately describes this sweetener and helps clarify food products labeling for manufacturers and consumers alike. The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food & Drug Administration in September 2010 to more succinctly and accurately describe what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from—corn.
High fructose corn syrup makes many healthy foods palatable and affordable for American consumers. It is disappointing that another sweetener would sue the competition for its own gain - and stand in the way of consumer clarity about added sugars in the diet.
Simply, this lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our right to petition the FDA to clear up consumer confusion about the name."
Interestingly, this new PR campaign comes at a time when consumers are starting to demand real sugar again — just look at the Pepsi Throwback phenomenon.

The health differences between cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup are debatable. But there is some evidence that HFCS, calorie for calorie, is processed differently in the body. A Princeton study, for example, found that HFCS led to significantly greater weight gain in lab rats:

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."
Me, I'm just turned off by the whole corn situation in the United States: heavily subsidized, industrialized, genetically modified, and grown for fuel as well as being slipped into so many foods, it's a $15.1 Billion industry that obviously pulls a lot of weight as a political lobby.

I'm trying to cut down on all sugars, but somehow cane seems a little less evil — or at least more wholesome — these days.

Have you changed your sweetener habits lately? And why?

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