In recent letters to food marketers, the National Corn Growers Association called on them to stop marketing products as not containing high fructose corn syrup, implying there is something especially unhealthy or unnatural about corn sugar.
"Such innuendos are not scientifically supportable and they are offensive to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. consumers that grow corn as well as the many others in rural communities," NCGA CEO Rick Tolman wrote in letters to the chief marketing officers at Welch Foods and Dean Foods, producers respectively of Welch's Natural Spreads and TruMoo Chocolate Milk, just two examples of anti-HFCS marketing. "Your focus on health and nutrition are commendable and supportable. Those points can all be well made without the reference to HFCS."
While the March 21 letters did lead to a dialog with Dean Foods, their response to-date has been unsatisfactory, Tolman noted in a follow-up letter.
"As you pointed out, you are a significant user of HFCS in other products and are familiar with the science supporting the manufacturing, safety, and functional properties of HFCS. Therefore, you know there is no scientific basis for the preference you see from consumers. It is a misperception. A big part of that problem is that the type of advertising you are doing with respect to HFCS perpetuates this misperception. That is our concern. You are using a misperception to differentiate your product and therefore helping to perpetuate that misperception."
Tolman also points out these facts about HFCS:
- The American Medical Association stated in June 2008 that high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners, and the American Dietetic Association concluded in December 2008 that "No persuasive evidence supports the claim that high fructose corn syrup is a unique contributor to obesity."
- Further, the ADA also noted, "High fructose corn syrup ... is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable."
- High fructose corn syrup is made from corn, a natural grain product. High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets the FDA requirements for use of the term "natural."
When it comes to marketing products as HFCS-free, some popular food writers also consider it problematic.
The journalist Michael Pollan, an opponent of modern agriculture, recognizes a scam when he sees one. In his book Food Rules, he writes: "Don't fall for the food industry's latest scam: products reformulated to contain 'no HFCS' or 'real cane sugar.' These claims imply these foods are somehow healthier, but they're not. Sugar is sugar."
Food retailers themselves express frustration over rampant misinformation about food safety and nutrition, Tolman said. Companies like Dean Foods are very strong when it comes to fighting myths about milk and other dairy products, for example. It's time for them to put their advertising where their mouth is.
"Instead of exploiting myths about corn sugar, they should join us in exploding the myths by exploring the facts," Tolman said. "We urge our growers and others to take action and help inform companies like Dean about the truth behind natural corn products like HFCS."