Oh, makers of high fructose corn syrup. You’re funny. You really are. But here’s what I can’t figure out: are you evil? Or just really, really stupid?
Perhaps you have seen these new ads from the Corn Refiners’ Association, promoting the “sweet surprise” that is high fructose corn syrup:
In each of these ads, you’ll note that there is a conversation that goes something like this:
“Here, try this non-food product.”
“I don’t want to eat that nasty crap. It’s got high fructose corn syrup. And you know what they say about high fructose corn syrup.”
“No…my nutritionally-devoid diet has turned me into a moron, plus I have lived in a darkened cave for the last decade. What do they say?”
…and then the person who didn’t want the HFCS is speechless. Like, gee whiz, now that you mention it, I can’t think of a single thing that’s wrong with it!
Maybe they can’t. But I can.
HFCS folks, allow me to answer the question that your cast members could not — perhaps because they were being paid hefty sums of money out of your multi-million dollar budget, or perhaps because their junk food-addled brains can’t manage a simple Google search.
Americans consume high fructose corn syrup to the tune of a whopping 63 pounds a year. It’s in everything. Not just sodas and ice cream and Pop Tarts, like you’d expect, but also in breakfast cereals, tomato sauce, nearly all breads, Shake ‘n Bake, granola bars, ketchup, crackers, cough syrups, dill pickles, frozen pizzas, meats, marinades, and more. Why is it there? Because it adds flavor, browns bread, helps processed foods keep longer on the shelves, and — thanks to sugar tariffs and corn subsidies — is cheap, cheap, cheap.
Here’s the problem with all of that:
1. HFCS helps empty processed foods be exactly that — empty and processed, so they can sit on the shelves far longer than food actually should. Remember, if it doesn’t go bad, it ain’t good.
2. HFCS has led to the supersizing of the American diet. Remember when sodas were 8 or 12 ounces? Of course you don’t. For years, the low, low price of HFCS has allowed manufacturers to “add value” not by reducing prices (which decreases revenues, and makes shareholders go bananas), but by getting big, then bigger still, then gargantuan. A “small” McDonald’s soda? Sixteen ounces (more than twice the size of the chain’s “large” soda when they first opened). The largest size? Forty-two frickin’ ounces. For a buck. ‘Nuff said.
3. HFCS helps destroy the nation. Says Tom Philpott, “there is no food raised that is more destructive than industrial corn.” 17.8 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers. 162 million pounds of chemical pesticides. Nearly 49 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses. Ecological dead-zones. Blue baby alerts.
Does HFCS actually metabolize differently than table sugar? Who cares? Either way, it’s a rotten product that does no one any good.
So, to reiterate, the knuckleheads in these ads that make me want to bang my head against the wall could have responded by citing any of the following problems:
2. Type-2 diabetes
3. The first generation in all of American history to have a life expectancy lower than their parents
4. Environmental catastrophe
5. Nitrogen runoff
6. Babies whose brains won’t get oxygen if they drink the water, right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
7. Agri-chemical stews
8. Ever-increasing volumes of food that is more food-like than it is real food
9. An utter lack of discussion about how to actually get this country back to health
10. At least one blogger, me, whose head is about to explode
“Sweet Surprise” my arse. Our agricultural policy is completely whack, and HFCS is a big part of that. Until we face that, any “surprise” is going to be far more bitter than sweet.
And Audrae Erickson, drone-like president of the Corn Refiners Association, if I get a spambot comment from you that tells me that HFCS “has been the subject of considerable attention and misinformation,” like you robotically deposit all over the internets, I shall go stark raving mad.
Thanks to skunk-rescuer, oven-repairer, and mama-extraordinaire Pamelotta, who was the first to point me to these ads.