The Checkout

Corn Refiners Whispering Sweet Nothings in Our Ears

Annys Shin

First there was Big Tobacco. And we've talked about Big Salt before. Now, it looks like there's....

...Big High Fructose Corn Syrup?

I was watching television about a week ago when I spotted a commercial featuring a couple sitting in the grass. The woman of the pair had in her hand a can of soda, which sparked a little flirtatious banter about, you guessed it, high fructose corn syrup.

HFCS, as I'll call it for now, is a sweetener and preservative used in many processed foods, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose, another form of sugar.

The woman, I believe, tries to debunk sundry nasty notions about HFCS and its nutritional value or lack thereof.

When the commercial ended, I felt as if I'd been pelted in the forehead with a sticky soda can and wasn't sure at first what hit me.

My colleague Mike Rosenwald discovered the ad was part of a PR blitz by the Corn Refiners Association to defend the honor of HFCS.

I guess the corn refiners figured they weren't going to go out like those trans fat guys and have their product run out of stores by lawmakers who get it into their heads that removing HFCS will somehow help make us less fat. (The science as far as humans go is unclear, according to Mayo, and yes, Phil Mendelson, I was thinking of you).

If the corn refiners succeed, they may usher in a new era. No longer will maligned food ingredients be afraid to show their face on nutrition labels, or encourage the companies that use them to game the serving size to make it seem like you're consuming less of them than you actually are (i.e. defining a serving of yummy-salty-fatty-whatnot as one bite).

So which ingredient do you think is next? Salt? Aspartame?

Nominate your favorite below.

By Annys Shin |  September 24, 2008; 7:32 AM ET Annys Shin
Previous: Another Simplicity Crib Recall | Next: Cadbury Pulls Products in Asia Because of Melamine


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I thought it was a popsicle, not a can of soda?

Anyway, bully for the Corn Industry for calling shenanigans on the most recent target of mass hysteria. Reminds of that science project about the perils of di-hydrogen monoxide.

Posted by: M Street | September 24, 2008 11:52 AM

High fructose corn syrup, sugar, and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same.

High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body.

In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed high fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996.

The American Medical Association in June 2008 helped put to rest misunderstandings about this sweetener and obesity, stating that “high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.”

Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at and

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association

Posted by: Audrae Erickson | September 25, 2008 8:11 AM

I think the Mayo clinic needs to start reading the medical journals. There have been dozens of studies that say that HFCS is the same as sugar. It's empty calories, but not poision. I'm acutally disappointed at the Mayo clinic at this one. But I am used to Annys using whatever information supports her point of view and dismissing everything else.

Posted by: Byte1 | September 30, 2008 11:24 AM

HFCS is the same as sugar. I object not to the existence of HFCS but the privileged economic position it has given our corn subsidies and tariffs on the importation of sugar. Remove the market distortions and let HFCS fight it out in the marketplace - I suspect we'd be seeing a lot less HFCS in our favorite products.

Posted by: Lindemann | October 1, 2008 8:09 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company