‘Sweet surprise’: the corn industry apparently doesn’t know what’s wrong with high fructose corn syrup. But I do.

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:

1. Obesity

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.

About these ads

62 Responses to “‘Sweet surprise’: the corn industry apparently doesn’t know what’s wrong with high fructose corn syrup. But I do.”


  1. 1 Brian Kirk September 10, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I saw one of those stupid TV ads too & I wanted to punch the goof-ball actors in the face for acting so stupid. Face it, we are the minority & forty-two frickin’ ounce soda drinkers are the majority.

  2. 2 Kirsten September 10, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I couldn’t believe those ads when I first saw them. Frankly, I’ve been hoping you would post about it – so thank you.

  3. 3 Christine September 10, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I’ve only seen one of them so far, but it made me furious. Thanks for writing this post, I never could have done it as well as you did.

  4. 4 Kim September 11, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Great minds, I suppose! I just posted these over my way last night! Creepy.

  5. 5 Kim September 11, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Creepy ads, I mean – not you! :-)

  6. 6 jenn September 11, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Preach it, sister! Unfortunately, I think you may be preaching to the choir. But if I’m ever presented with the kind of stupid argument that occurred in the ads, I’ll be armed with good information and won’t have to fumble for an answer as to why HFCS is bad.

  7. 7 Sis B September 11, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I laughed in disbelief at the ads, and then
    i got mad, and then I realized that this is a good thing! If the HFCS people are struggling bad enough to make ADS for an additive, it has to be a good sign. What’s next, MSG? Trans fat? Nicotine?

  8. 8 TWBernard September 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Yeah, I saw one of those commercials over the weekend. My reaction went something like “Are you friggin’ kiddiKABOOM!” at which point my head did, in fact explode. So your reaction is spot on.

    As in the current cranial detonating political sphere, this campaign demonstrates once again that the word “fact” is getting tragically debased through willful misuse by those who selectively use data and statistics to promote deceptive agendas.

    I mean come the corn-based @#$% on: if you’re so hard up to tout the benefits of your product that the best you can do is close your list with “keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments*” then you’re not exactly winning me over with the merits of your argument.

    * see here for the full list: http://www.sweetsurprise.com/hfcsquickfacts.php

  9. 9 mary September 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    We are being force fed soybeans and corn through partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup. Both are processed by extreme amounts of heat that remove all nutrients and chemicals are added to make them stable and extend shelf life. You might as well drink a glass of formaldehide every day. Both hydrogenated oils and HFCS are responsible for heart disease and Type II diabetes, yet natural fats and meats are blamed. An industry that is unnecessary is getting rich by lying and the diet dictocrats are helping them kill us.

    Switch to extra virgin olive oil, lard, butter, whole milk, and pure sugar to extend your life.

  10. 10 Sara September 11, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you!!! Those commercials have been driving me up the wall! It’s infuriating, how idiotic and willing to swallow anything they expect their audience to be.

  11. 12 Jen September 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for your great blog.

    Wow. This is ridiculous.

    I have been sharing information I have come across about HFCS with friends and family for the past five years or so.

    Unfortunately, I think these commercials have the ability to set us back. They make me want to scream “People: this is all public relations for the corn industry!”

    Maybe we need our own anti-Sweet Surprise commercial.

    We do not buy anything that contains this ingredient and still won’t, so there Sweet Surprise!

  12. 13 Emma September 11, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you so much!! People look at me like I’m crazy when I say HFCS is bad for you and those horrible commericals only make it worse. It’s a hugh HFCS conspiracy!

  13. 14 scarlett September 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I haven’t seen these ads yet, which is why I can respond to this post — if I had actually seen them instead of just having heard about them, my blood would be boiling too hard for me to type. Thanks for helping to debunk them, and here’s hoping that someone, somewhere, comes out with an anti-HFCS PSA that will reach as many people as these stupid ads.

    Great blog, BTW – I just found you and am loving you after only two posts. Off to read the rest of the archive! Smooches!

  14. 15 Kae September 12, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for posting this :3

    They seriously think we are THAT stupid to not know hfcs is bad for you. Basically in the popcicle commercial the man is saying “Oh your right!! I don’t know why it’s bad, so I’ll eat it anyways because I’m neglecting my own health and don’t care to know what I put into my body.” and the woman at the pool table is basically saying “I feed my children liquid sugar and I feel that I’m the best parent in the world because it contains hfcs!! Yayy!!” so anyways. They have a very devoid thought process. Hfcs will be good for society when pigs grow wings and fly. Even then, the pigs wouldn’t even want to eat it =D

    Thanks.

  15. 16 Fairly Odd Mother September 12, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I saw one of these commercials the other day and thought the commercials were ridiculous. The woman supporting HFCS was pouring some day-glo ‘bug juice’ (as we called it back in the day)—yeah, thanks, I’m SURE that is healthy. Thanks for posting this but I’m saddened by how many people are ignorant of the problems with HFCS.

  16. 17 Brenda September 13, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I saw this commercial this morning and just about flipped out! I don’t know any pediatrician who says that any product with added sweetener (sugar or otherwise) should be part of a child’s healthy diet. And I just hate the random food that has HFCS in it, like applesauce. I mean really? Apples aren’t sweet enough by themselves? Thanks for posting this to help get the word out.

  17. 18 Cy September 14, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I have seen these ads a couple of times now, and the last one made me check out the site. (SweetSurprise.com) to see just how they were spinning this. I laughed aloud. They are actually saying HFCS is a natural sweetener just like honey or sugar. WOW- I guess since sucralose is made from sugar, it’s natural, too. I mean, the chlorine they add to cause the chemical reaction that produces sucralose occurs in nature somewhere, too, right? UGH.

    They avoid completely HOW HFCS is made from the corn byproducts and all of the agricultural bioengineering and pesticides (I guess since they aren’t saying it’s organic, it’s ok). Just, ugh.

    SO, after that, I had to google “sweet surprise propoganda” and I got you. Thanks!

    I used to spend a half hour in the bread aisle to figure out which bread to buy (I don’t buy that often, so I can never remember which brand I bought before.) I DID always remember NOT to buy Arnold brand, because all of their breads contained HFCS- unlike most other brands who have one or two types without it. Imagine my surprise last month when I saw a loaf of Arnold brand bread with a new package stating PROMINENTLY: No High Frutcose Corn Syrup! I think that’s why this campaign has started. With Jones Soda switching to Sugar only and now some breads dropping HFCS, they are worried they won’t even be able to sell to the junk food industry.

    BTW, since I started reading up- I won’t admit how long I ignored the “food” I put into my body- I try to make sure even my empty calories are “real” food. If you try a Coke made for Mexico (you can find them in glass bottles in the ethnic foods markets) or order Dr Pepper from Waco, you can really taste the difference.

  18. 19 SANDI September 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I too have watched these inane commercials for the ” non existent” negative reasons to ingest HFCS. I was incredulous as it is so obvious to any one with an iota of intelligence that these commercials are skewed to shed a positive light on this abominable ingredient. I have also noticed an increase in many food companies leaning more toward natural ingredients within the last year. I too ponder the possibility that the HFCS industry is feeling the pinch in their bottom line as people up for the greater good

  19. 20 SANDI September 14, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I too have watched these inane commercials for the ” non existent” negative reasons to ingest HFCS. I was incredulous as it is so obvious to any one with an iota of intelligence that these commercials are skewed to shed a positive light on this abominable ingredient. I have also noticed an increase in many food companies leaning more toward natural ingredients within the last year. I too ponder the possibility that the HFCS industry is feeling the pinch in their bottom line as people wise up for the greater good

  20. 21 Mrs. Gregorton September 15, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Thank you! I thought of the Cleaner Plate Club when I first saw one of these commercials and I have been waiting for your outrage (followed of course by actual facts, data and research). They are so enraging and frankly just weird. I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly a commercial for until the end of the ad.

  21. 22 jennie September 15, 2008 at 3:59 am

    HFCS was a HUGE issue for us over the past two weeks. DH, DS, DD and I all went on a road trip from Vancouver to Anaheim, culminating in 3 days at disneyland (don’t get me started on that one). Anyway, I am allergic to corn, and while it is prevalent in Canada, it is frikkin’ EVERYWHERE in the US! Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s, and the small “natural foods” section we found in a Safeway in Oregon. Everywhere else, HFCS was in at least 85% of the foods we encountered. Even fruit juice… not just juice, apparently it needs to be sweetened. On top of this, my 4 yo dd, who is not allergic to corn threw up twice on the trip… afterwards we realized that both times it was a result of her drinking something containing HFCS. We steered right clear of it after that. I find it fascinating and incredibly disturbing that the US won’t allow Stevia to be used as a food product, but HFCS is dumped into everything. Gross.

  22. 23 Pamela September 15, 2008 at 5:02 am

    The next movie in my netflix queue is King Corn. I can’t wait to watch it. I’m sure after that I’ll really have to clean out my kitchen and start from scratch. That crap is everywhere!

  23. 24 mojavi at Simple Things September 15, 2008 at 6:33 am

    when i first saw the ad I was shocked! Hubby said, looks like they are fighting back.. . I am waiting for the day when companies advertise “HFCS Free” like the fat free used to be popular and now organic is… one day hopefully…

  24. 25 Buff Mcgruff September 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    The problem is that the people that freak out about HFCS are wrong and don’t know the study information and the people that are PRO HFCS are trying to act like it is good for you. It is neither.

    It doesn’t hurt you. You got your study info wrong BUT

    it doesn’t help you.

    In the end yes eat healthy things but becoming scared or it or acting as if that it has some secret death property to make you fat is ignoring the science. Just eat well, don’t eat scared.

  25. 26 ahh September 15, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    The site says to eat it “in moderation.”
    Ok sooo, breakfast toast, cereal, yogurt, juice…nope all have corn syrup…alright then lunch, ok uhh pickles, bread, chips, soda, catsup…alright maybe just a salad? Oh dang my dressing has corn syrup!! I mean come on, there is no way to eat it “in moderation” these days.
    Then it has this thing about how mother’s are trying to get rid of trans fat, corn syrup, and such out of their child’s lunches. The corn syrup industry says “oh thats stupid it’s just about calories, not ingredients” Please, I wish it were that easy.
    The ads are rediculous with nothing to back them up.

  26. 27 Expat Chef September 15, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Here, an article from one of my favorite columnists who never fails to read my mind. On HFCS (and other ills):

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/09/10/notes091008.DTL

    • 28 dupedagain February 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm

      Before you go bragging that this angry, moron, reactionary “columnist” has been reading your mind, perhpas you and he should study basic f-ing biology and learn a simple fact. CO2 is not toxic. This telepathic idiot you have been praying to said in his incredibly stupid article that CO2 is toxic. Then in the next breath he couldn’t wait to mention cancer. CO2 IS NOT A GREENHOUSE GAS!!!! In case you were not aware you putz, CO2 is carbon dioxide. It is a life-giving gas that plants breathe. You know, plants? those things that you would step on an unaborted fetus to save? God you people are idiots. Oh, and by the way, this mind-reading columnist you so proudly plug also is too stupid to understand that there is not a DIMES worth of difference between repubulicans and democrats. How many name-dropping bashes could he possibly fit into one article? Cindy McCain?? Oh yeah, I forgot Cindy McCain is going to forcefeed me HFCS. Gosh, quit insulting yourself. These topics are very good and I agree on this one in particular, I just wish mindless, reactionary liberals wouldn’t highjack these types of issues so that they could grow some legs. This is not a political issue, so lets keep it that way.

  27. 29 Consumers Unite September 15, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Thank God someone else is paying attention. Those commercials would not even exist if there was not a problem the companies who peddle HFCS, not to mention GMOs and other poisons, want to “address.” Get ready to start seeing articles about dioxin and how good for you that is too! Monsanto is in a class action lawsuit with the folks from Nitro, WV over dioxin exposure of workers at the plant. Already there are things appearing showing “studies” (I am sure they were funded by the companies themselves) that dioxin is not as bad for humans and the environment as we once thought. It is truly disgusting (I speak as a journalist and educator and consumer) how the mainstream media will run these ads, but when bills requiring labeling of the foods we eat are being reviewed, you are lucky to read about it on page 41.
    Thanks for writing this!

  28. 30 Little Brook September 16, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for this! I just wrote about this myself (but in a different way). I am linking to your post so people can get the facts.

    It’s a great post! Good to see I’m (really) not alone!

  29. 31 Michelle Johnson September 16, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Yea! I just blogged about this too and I linked back to your post, your’s is better!
    I think we have a silent crusade going on with us mom and famalies who are desperatly trying to be heard.
    Keep up the good fight!

  30. 32 littlefoodie September 17, 2008 at 12:57 am

    i love your blog and i linked my post directly to it. its amazing how people actually love their hfcs or at least don’t want to know what’s up with putting stuff like that into your body. i got some downright nasty comments but like always gotta laugh!

  31. 33 Alicia September 17, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    In response to the first poster who said that those 42oz drinkers are the majority…I say let them eat cake! And then choke on it! Anyone with half a brain who paid attention in biology class knows that most of the prepared and processed foods in grocery stores are bad for you…the people that chose to ignore it will eliminate themselves and lead fat unhealthy lives.

  32. 34 k2 September 19, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Great post!
    Your not alone, my head feels like it’s 2 centimeters away from exploding due to HFCS, the Corn Conglomerate and those damn ads!
    THEY ABSOLUTELY DRIVE ME NUTS
    Type 2 Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions and HFCS is to blame.
    As a T1 Diabetic, I didn’t have a choice regarding my diabetes, & it breaks my heart to see that what people are putting in their bodies is literally KILLING them.
    k2

  33. 35 Jemma September 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I was outraged by these commercials too! The minute I saw them, I checked out the website. The creators sure do know how to polish a TURD. There is going to be so many people that will do no further research on this and take the websites and commercials word for it. My five year old knew that those commercials were lying. Sadly, the masses do not have a clue.

    I hope to live to see the day when all this LEGAL POISON is officially banned and gone from this world.

  34. 36 Cy September 22, 2008 at 3:02 am

    It may very well be that companies are offering alternatives or forgoing the HFCS altogether ~AND ADVERTISING THAT FACT~ so the corn manufacturers are “fighting back.” The thing is, I can’t imagine how this is an efective ad campaign. Who does it target? If you are not buying HFCS, surely you have educated yourself beyond “I heard it was bad for you” and these inane commercials aren’t going to change that. Are there precedents for this sort of campaign? The beef and egg boards represent a product that consumers buy directly, but an ingredient? I guess the Nutrasweet gumball thing, but that was to introduce a product, right?

    In today’s coupon insert, there is a $1. off coupon for Welch’s Naturals. It is touting “no added sugar or artificial sweetners, and there is a big headline (bigger than the brand name) that states “No High Frutcose Corn Syrup. (I’m with all the people who have said most fruit juice doesn’t really need added sweetner, but the fact is, companies DO add it, and it’s usually HFCS.)

  35. 37 Cornsyrup September 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    There is nothing wrong with corn syrup in moderation, in which the ad say. Anything in moderation, isn’t bad for you. I drink 6 count them, 6 Diet Pepsi’s a night at work. I drink a 24 ounce Diet Pepsi every 2 hours. I have not consumed 5 gallons of water in 10 years combined. And I’m healthy!

  36. 38 Jocelyn September 22, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Wait,

    Numbers 1 and 2 don’t really make sense… Want something that will never go bad? What about honey? The only food that NEVER EVER goes bad. Is honey a bad product too?

    Why blame the corn industry for Americans being gluttons…do you think it cost less to make soda in the past than now? No, but in a more competitive market places like McDonalds need to lower their prices for their…everythings…to ensure they can win over any customers that would have gone to their numerous competitors.

    Oh, and as for your 3rd argument, corn is not to blame, it’s all the people that love their meat! Cows need enormous amounts of feed (there is a great deal of corn in their diet), if people ate less beef there would no need to produce so much corn. We all know how cows and their passing of gas has contributed to greenhouse emissions.

    I will not say that high fructose corn syrup has not contributed to the obesity crisis we are currently experiencing, but it is no more to blame than sugar, low prices for unhealthy food and high prices for healthy food. Neither the corn industry nor HFCS can be blamed for American’s “need” to binge–this is a societal crisis that must be further addressed, but make sure you’re right when you’re pointing fingers.

  37. 39 William September 22, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I’m with Jocelyn until she commits her own sin. To Recap:

    #1 (Corn Syrup makes food bad by making it empty) – Actually, the manufacturers decision to produce the product to those specifications, favoring shelf life over any other concern, is what makes food empty. Corn Syrup is simply the least expensive sweetener available to them because of a tariff/subsidy economic context. I appreciate your concern, but this is not a problem with Corn Syrup. If Corn Syrup wasn’t in all of the products you identified, sugar would be – and you’d be all up in arms about how bad sugar is at the same volumes you cite HFCS being in. I hate the stuff like crazy, but #1 is not the fault of corn growers it is the fault of food producers in general. They’re harder to attack, however, because people like food and the people who make it.

    Instead of blanket-blaming the wrong people, try asking people to write congress and protest the corn subsidy. Why should they do this? Because corn is an absurdly heavy feeder and wreaks ecological devastation where it is cultivated year-over-year at the blunt end of a truckload of fertilizer. Why is that not enough for you? Why do you ignore the subsidy and attack the recipient? The farmer is just answering the market. Ditto the manufacturer who uses HFCS instead of the very expensive sugar. Attack the tariff, not the poor guy trying to work around it.

    #2 (HFCS makes McDonald’s sell larger sodas.) – Same as above. McDonald’s is just answering to the market. The price of HFCS has nothing to do with the size of the soda they offer. The low cost of that soda has more to do with the means of delivery to the consumer. I’ve worked in fast food and for a 7-eleven and I’ve seen the margins on those drinks and how they’re derived over bottled products.

    44oz (7-11 sells ‘em MUCH bigger, by the way) sodas are so inexpensive because the primary component of the “Cost of Goods” for bottled soda is the packaging, water, and trucking thereof. Water is heavy, bulky stuff and transporting it is not very efficient.

    Fountain drinks, however, are shipped in a VERY compact, VERY dense form which makes them VERY economically efficient. HFCS has nothing to do with this, the lack of water is “to blame.” The container (a wax paper cup) is also less expensive (and less durable because it needn’t hold product on a shelf for any length of time) than a bottle. All of this combines with the low cost of on-site water to make soda sold out of a fountain cost pennies on the dollar. You could QUINTUPLE the cost of the syrup itself and you’d STILL make a ludicrous killing on fountain drinks. Selling such large sodas for “so little” makes McDonald’s look like it’s doing you a favor. Meanwhile they get you to pay an extra nickel for an extra half-cent’s worth of soda.

    P.S. McDonald’s, as with MOST restaurants out there, will give you free refills if you haven’t left the store for EXACTLY this reason. The soda costs them only a fraction of what the cup cost (usually a nickel). Bring your own container to 7-Eleven and you can fill up for fifty cents and save a tree while you’re at it.

    Finally, #3 (HFCS kills babies and ocean life, pollutes the air, yadda yadda) – This is at once the most accurate, and also the most ridiculous of your claims. The heavy growing of corn CAN be said to increase various pollution woes, but HFCS is not the single cause of all of these ills. By throwing around rabid blanket statements, and prefacing a potentially decent argument with two equally undiscriminating, and less well founded claims you have ensured that any credibility you had remaining with your reader was exhausted before they even got here.

    Again, the subsidy of corn growers is more to blame here than the use of HFCS itself. If you have a problem with this, attack the subsidy, not a food additive that is a symptom rather than the cause.

    Even more to blame for this point, however, is the exploitative agricultural practices in general as well as the complete and total apathy on the part of the American Consumer.

    Joscelyn, above me, is right when she asks that you make sure you are correct before you start pointing fingers.

    Arguments and essays like this hurt the cause more than they help it. You turn off reasoning, logical people from your case when you spout from the hip, rather than from the head. Please, please, PLEASE do your homework and some research before you add to the pile of noise already drowning out all rational thought on the internet. You had some potential here, but I’m afraid you squandered it.

  38. 40 cleanerplateclub September 22, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Ahh, William. We crossed paths. With you on the subsidies. Have talked about it before, will talk about it again. Spend a little time on here, and you’ll see that.

    Attacked the subsidy? Check.

    Written to Congress? Check.

    Discussed industrial corn in its many, many forms, including nasty E. Coli-filled, climate-changing meat? Check.

    Hoping see exploitive agricultural practices changed, and voting with my fork, my donations, and my time spent communicating to our politicians? Check.

    Still nonetheless, offended by an inane commercial that suggests that anyone who has a problem with HFCS is a passive-aggressive ninny who simply needs some sense talked into them by a robot?

    Check.

  39. 41 Rebecca September 23, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that absolutely hates these commercials. And the website is a total joke as well. Apparently the general public are complete morons…thank god for the Corn Association to inform us

  40. 42 cleanerplateclub September 23, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Jocelyn – I had a snarky comment out for a while, but I just re-read it, and it seemed meaner than necessary. I’ll just say this: this post is a response to specific ads on a specific topic. Yes, crap meat is responsible for much of the bad environmental impact. No, HFCS is not wholly responsible. But the folks who make HFCS profit from the broken system. And here they are, releasing these insulting ads that suggests that anyone who doesn’t want their crap product — whether sold by them or McDonalds — is a passive aggressive idiot-ninny. That offends me. That’s what I’m writing about here, and that’s what others are reacting to.

    William is right: the larger problem is subsidies (which is very much responsible for the low-price-for-unhealthy-food-model you mention), and I encourage everyone to learn more about our agricultural subsidies. If you don’t like what you learn, contact your representatives. You can start by searching on this blog, or go to Grist, or the Ethicurean, or plenty of other places.

    But. The Corn Refiner’s Association is paying tens of millions of dollars to claim “nothing wrong with us, so back off, stupid worried people.” And if they suggest this, if they suggest that anyone who doesn’t want their crap product simply needs to be educated by a 30-second spot, then I’m offended, and I’m going to write about it. They may not be 100% to blame, but they are 100% part of the problem.

    You’re right about honey. It’s true for maple syrup, agave nectar, and pretty much any sweetner. But it’s not true for the food products I mentioned. It’s a fine point, but I’m happy to clarify.

    Hopefully I’m managing to get this out without being downright mean, which I think I was the first time. I’m very aware of where I’m pointing fingers. I’m pointing fingers at an ad campaign that offends me.

  41. 43 phoenix September 25, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not the only person who feels this way.

    For the record, your story is linked through a Digg article that’s the the first link on Google by searching “sweet surprise propaganda.” Good to know more people are seeing through the corn industry’s scheme to shove more empty calories down our throats. :)

    High Fructose Corn Syrup: It’s Cheaper Than Food!

  42. 44 Alex September 29, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    This was a GREAT post. Those ads have always bugged me too and I’m glad you were able to put the not-so-sweet-surprise into a clear argument. The ads bugged me because they’re so obviously propaganda and make people who are against HFCS look like idiots.

  43. 45 chrissy October 7, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Just saw the ad…..the idiot kid tells his friend “High fructose corn syrup is fine in moderation”.

    What the heck is “moderation”?!! We should all go to that stupid sweetsurprise website and click on “contact us” and tell them what we think.

  44. 46 David November 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    I have a question. HFCS is in everything so is there a web site that has recipes that do not use items that contain it? My wife to be has to cut out gluten and HFCS so it has been tough to find anything that she can eat.

  45. 47 Erin November 13, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I am glad to see that not everyone in the US has been tricked into thinking that this is something that is ok to consume. I had to write a analysis paper on the commericals in support of HFCS, people looked at me like I was crazy to say that it was bad for them. Older Adults told me that it has been in the foods for years and they ate those same type of foods as children and that they are healthy today so that it must be ok to give thier children. It made me soooooo mad!!!! And since these people have seen these commericals telling them that it is ok to consume HFCS, they think they are more than write and stuffing thier faces they went about thier business. Someone needs to put out a more accurate commercial, those “truth” people need to expand thier grounds!!!!

  46. 48 Karebear December 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I didn’t even see the ads…i heard about them and i was beyond pissed. It is so difficult to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup and for anyone to be so deceitful as to make such a commercial is horrific and is telling of the amount of corruption in the FDA. There was a time when there were very few fat people. This epidemic is due to the poor quality of the food our government endorses. This sucks.

  47. 49 chrazzi1 January 15, 2009 at 1:56 am

    “The Market” is contrived by advertising and public relations! Supersizing is a result of brain washing. Your argument is nil…People who drink 6+Dier Pepsi or any such product, and not any water, as stated, is NOT healthy. You just think you are. It might take time, but it’ll show up…When people say “everything in moderation”, they’re either 1)Ignorant, 2)Have a financial stake in the argument or 3)Are afraid of lawsuits…

  48. 50 narise January 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    After I saw those commercials I was wondering if I could find the effects of them on american people for my science project. But so far it seems more like a demonstration than a project. Does anyoe have any ideas?

  49. 51 Windale Studios March 22, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I just examined the “sweetsurprise” website, and sent this to them:
    As a chemistry, biology, and health teacher, I think that this website is deceiving the American public.
    In no place did you mention that the molecular make-up of HFCS is not the same as sugar (you forgot to mention hydrogen atoms)–that the cells have only recently been introduced to this “chemical” as food. And what about the revealing “and more research is needed,” addition to most of the research. Appears much like the tobacco industry claims of years past.
    As I tell my students, the American people should boycott corn (corn in every way–even corn-on-the-cob) because of those TV advertisements. Shame on you!
    By the way, those advertisements are hurting your health attack on the American people. You wouldn’t believe how many people are really enraged over those stupid advertisements.
    Liz Pearsall
    But thanks for an excellent teaching tool–I’ve used such advertisements and the use of HFCS in multi-curriculum teaching strategies combining science, government, economics, history, and health. I also draw attention to research statistics and the comparison of “who” is supporting such research–and the resulting conclusions.

  50. 52 Tara March 22, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    God bless you for writing this!! I saw the commercial and was truly disgusted that it’s all about the money and no one cares about what is really happening. I wrote them a long email and they never answered back. Yeah, seriously , SWEET SURPRISE, do they really think we are stupid??? There is research being conducted right now on HFCS and its harmful effects.

    Once again, thank you for your wonderful writing and I hope no one believes their lies!!!

  51. 53 dgf March 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Don’t drink raw milk either.

  52. 54 Dia June 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Yea – great blog :) I saw one of these adverts in print (Parenting mag – boo!) this AM, so checked out the site & found your post :)
    Our natural foods store had a list recently of HFCS free sodas (I consume VERY few of these – but good info) inc. Portland’s ‘Hot Lips,’ which uses Wilamette Valley (OR) fruit – ohh – the raspberry really tastes like raspberry!! & has sugar instead – as I say, this is a rare treat – but fun to know is ‘out there.’
    I’ve been using coconut oil & milk this spring, & researching that, found that a lot of the propaganda against coconut came from the soy industry (if you feed pigs coconut oil, they loose weight, but corn & soy OILS fatten them right up – another link in the fattening chain)
    Cheers :)

  53. 55 Inga July 17, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I was in shock the first time I saw the tv ads, but just recently, after seeing a print ad, I went online to see what “sweet surprise” had to say. Scary to say, but I found myself unsure of what was actually wrong with HFCS (even though in my heart I knew it WAS wrong). Your post has enlightened me to the larger issues at stake, not just the question of metabolizatio.

  54. 56 Mark July 20, 2009 at 3:16 am

    I have cut out all HFCS consumption in my food buying. It was causing foods I bought to taste terrible. I changed brands and still found the other product to taste as bad. When I bought foods without HFCS they were so much better. About a year ago I found Mexican Coke sold at a store I shop at. It was really good for a change. I buy nothing but Coke made with cane sugar. No after taste. Blood Pressure went way down from 199 to 117 by removing HFCS consumption. No medication was used to do this.

  55. 57 Spectre July 21, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Sad sad sheeple. At least the crappy HFCS site tried to legitimize their claims by citing poorly-done research and papers. Watch, I can sit here and make unfounded statements too:

    Blinking your eyelids causes
    * obesity
    * diabetes
    * AIDS
    * cancer

    That was fun, maybe I should start a blog! Maybe your next post should be about a real thread like DHMO consumption

    http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

  56. 58 Nina February 15, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I am GLAD I’m not that only one who found those commercials stupid and misleading. I was so curious to know what they stated in the website too. What I find more amusing is how they defend HFCS in every way when in reality, we all know the health issues from it.

    When I saw those commercials, I was telling my mom on how the HFCS companies are trying to gain their respect because people started to realize the health concerns of the ingredient and they didn’t want people to switch from it to healthier means. And of course, they try to advertise the positive sides of HFCS.

    I even googled and found this page to see if anyone complained about how stupid the commercials were, and here I am! Even the name of HFCS doesn’t sound healthy!

    Thank you for sharing!

  57. 59 Alex March 13, 2010 at 1:53 am

    This is one of the most idiotic things I have ever read. C6H12O6 is the chemical structure of both glucose (table sugar) and fructose (HFCS) and both are found naturally in many foods. Just because something contains HFCS doesn’t make it inherently unhealthy or at least more unhealthy then something that contains regular sugar. It’s not the corn industries fault that fat-ass american’s over consume foods they shouldn’t. Using the corn industry as a scape-goat for your own over indulgence is just sad. The purpose of these ads is to remind healthy people that HFCS=sugar in every way possible. The correlation that you find between diseases/disorders and HFCS is simply because of the foods people are eating and I’m sure that if you took out all of the corn syrup and replaced it with regular sugar you would see the exact same correlation. You have to change the way you eat and what you eat and not blame someone else.

  58. 60 Markley March 23, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Being the Biologist that I am I always hate to see such statements made that are partly true but grossly exaggerated. If you want credibility CITE YOUR SOURCES. Here is one from the Mayo Clinic’s website about HFCS

    “o far, research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn’t intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity.

    While research continues, moderation remains important. Many beverages and other processed foods made with high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Regularly including these products in your diet has the potential to promote obesity — which, in turn, promotes conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.”

    Now I have my own reasons for not being a big fan of HFCS (mostly because it is not nearly as satisfying as cane sugar), but they are not the reasons you have stated mostly because of the lack of support.

    Please read some scholarly material before blatantly saying HFCS is the reason for all the ills of America.

  59. 61 Jen June 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Wow. I wonder if the two commenters above were reading this post at all. The issues with HFCS are not only about the caloric value or the nutritional effects. The problems with HFCS are much more deeply rooted, stemming back to the government artificially propping up the corn industry with corn subsidies and sugar tariffs. It’s a vicious cycle that is creating massive industrial corn surpluses, blighting the American farmland so that it’s overrun with corn instead of other (less profitable) vegetables, and enabling junk food manufacturers to inject much more caloric content into our junk food than they could otherwise afford to.

    Sure, maybe if Americans consumed the exact same amount of cane sugar, they would have the same health problems. But the fact is, they wouldn’t be ABLE to, because the price of cane sugar is much, much higher. (So if we switch to cane sugar only, either junk food becomes more expensive or less sugary. Either way, Americans would probably be slimmer on average.) But instead, HFCS is cheap-cheap-cheap and the corn refiners want the junk food manufacturers to keep buying it. And the corn refiners don’t want you to think HFCS is bad, because–hey, if we start demanding cane sugar enough, that will cut into the nice profits they have going.


  1. 1 Insult to Injury « Puttin’ Lipstick on a Pig Trackback on March 9, 2009 at 8:17 am
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