Recently MomCentral facilitated a blog tour promoting the Corn Refiners Association’s latest quest to rebrand high fructose corn syrup as ‘corn sugar’. The CRA claims that consumers are “confused” and the name switch will clear things right up. Problem is, consumers are not confused, they are becoming more educated and choosing not to consume HFCS.
Fact: The Corn Refiners Association is a lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. It is not a group of farmers trying to sell their crop. It is not an independent scientific research group or think tank. The CRA’s purpose is to promote HFCS in order to keep up demand for tax-payer subsidized, artificially price depressed field corn. Specifically, the CRA wants to:
highlight the important role high fructose corn syrup plays in our nation’s foods and beverages. (http://www.sweetsurprise.com/about-us/our-mission)
MomCentral falls firmly in the pro-HFCS camp. Take a look at their article Mislead By False Health Halo of High Fructose Corn Syrup-free, which is “advertorial’ and links only to the Corn Refiners Association sites, not to any objective or critical sites. (And while it may be the case that HFCS free does not equal healthy, some objective, unbiased sources should have been added. Instead it comes off as a marketing piece for the CRA.)
The blogger’s posts have a similar theme. In exchange for gift certificates, many have apparently decided to check their critical thinking at the door and repeat, almost word for word, the drumbeat of the CRA’s PR department. Some quotes:
The professional speakers used a lot of technical scientific terms and words that rather confused me, but ultimately the important message I learned from them is that there is no significant difference between HFCS and table sugar. (A Happy Hippy Mom)
If she is confused, then how can she draw a conclusion, one that is the exact marketing line of the CRA?
What’s interesting, but not surprising, is that the only difference betweenSucrose and HFCS are the names and where they come from. (Blogfully)
Where they come from? One is a natural product of photosynthesis, one is a recent invention created in a laboratory. But the HFCS controversy isn’t about whether table sugar and HFCS have the same amount of calories or sweeten the same amount. That’s a red herring.
Try using a smaller plate instead of trying to cut out a certain type of sugar from your diet. (Momstart)
Seriously? Dissecting this statement is an entire blog post on its own.
This post isn’t primarily about bloggers who chose to spread the HFCS propaganda, although that is an interesting topic to explore.
First, though, let’s talk about HFCS and the CRA claims, namely that HFCS is metabolized exactly like any other sweetener and that it’s safe. Is it? Because when I started snooping around, I found that:
Fructose (a component of HFCS) and glucose are not metabolized in the same way. I remember having to memorize the Krebs cycle and how food becomes energy to power our cells in biology class. Fructose is processed in the liver by an enzyme, but glucose can be processed anywhere in the body (that liver thing is important). The manufacturing process for HFCS takes corn starch and transforms it into a glucose/fructose mix. Sucrose, which is produced by plants when they convert sunlight into food, also contains glucose and fructose but the HFCS is chemically different from the naturally occurring sucrose. The fructose in HFCS is unbound. This isn’t a chemistry text (and thank goodness for that – I hated chemistry) so I’ll stop there but please research it further if you are interested.
IMPORTANT UPDATE, 4 pm: A consultant for the Corn Refiners Association has passed along a link to an article on HFCS metabolism that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. I haven’t read through it, and honestly, I probably won’t until late tonight after the kids are in bed. I am posting the link in the interest of fairness and so you can read it yourself and draw your own conclusion.
HFCS is a highly processed product that may be contaminated with mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a non-profit research group based in Minnesota and Geneva, mercury contamination was found in foods made with HFCS.
We sent several dozen products to a commercial laboratory, using the latest in mercury detection technology. And guess what? We found mercury. In fact, we detected mercury in nearly one in three of the 55 HFCS-containing food products we tested. They include some of the most recognizable brands on supermarket shelves: Quaker, Hunt‘s, Manwich, Hershey‘s, Smucker‘s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain and Yoplait.
HFCS has been associated with liver scarring among adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
We have identified an environmental risk factor that may contribute to the metabolic syndrome of insulin resistance and the complications of the metabolic syndrome, including liver injury,” [Manal Abdelmalek, MD, MPH] said.
I also found this information about HFCS.
HFCS is “techinically” natural, according the FDA definition. However, it is not found in nature, nor can it be made in the kitchen. Laboratory grade equipment and trained personnel are required to construct it.
HFCS is not corn sugar. The FDA already defines corn sugar. HFCS is corn starch that has been altered into a glucose/fructose blend.
HFCS is hidden in so many foods, that diabetes educators and publications are warning against it because it can cause weight gain due to the way it is metabolized. HFCS is in many foods that traditionally have been made without sweeteners – salad dressing, stuffing, yogurt, tomato paste, applesauce…
HFCS has not been conclusively shown to cause obesity, because there haven’t been any human studies that explored HFCS and obesity. The studies so far have explored sweeteners, not HFCS only. There also isn’t any study showing that HFCS does not cause obesity. Simply put, we don’t know one way or the other.
“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
HFCS is made from genetically modified corn, which is sold by Monsanto. All of the reasons to avoid Monsanto and/or GMO products, if at all possible, would take up an entire post of its own.
And now for the secondary topic of this post.
Why shouldn’t a blogger use their blog to promote corporate marketing messages?
For me, it comes down to blogging with integrity. Can you trust what someone says if they are getting paid not to criticize? If they must only say positive things? I do believe bloggers and writers should be compensated for their work and content. Our work has value. What I don’t believe is that mommy bloggers should blindly repeat marketing messages for a few gift cards or a trip.
Mom-101 posted about HFCS and bloggers today, and a paid consultant for the Corn Refiners Association joined the discussion in the comments.
Our Ordinary Life also explores the topic of lobbyists paying mom bloggers to market for them. It’s an interesting question. I’ve accepted gift cards in exchange for posts. On the other hand, I have a written policy that declares I will only post my actual, unbiased opinion.
My pledge to you, my readers: I will always post my own opinion, whether I am compensated or not. (And heaven knows that I don’t lack for an opinion! Just ask my long-suffering husband.)
Actual text in from my media kit:
Milehimama and Mama Says retain complete editorial control of sponsored posts and will only post true opinions. Milehimama cannot review products she has not personally tried out. Readers trust Mama Says to be honest in all reviews, and that trust will not be broken.
Tell me what you think of this latest HFCS marketing ploy. Do mommy bloggers hurt their credibility when they write for D.C. lobbyists? Do you avoid HFCS, and why?