Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Letter to In-N-Out

This letter (below) was written by an ardent fan of In-N-Out who also happens to be the source of inspiration that prompted me to start this blog and also inspired some of the entries.  It made me very happy that he, someone who can eat HFCS-laced products all day long without suffering from intestinal distress, was motivated to contact his favorite restaurant and ask that they take their dedication to old fashioned ways and high quality products even more seriously, "perfect the perfection," by removing HFCS from their product line. 

Date: September 19, 2009

In-N-Out Burgers Corporate Office
4199 Campus Drive, 9th Floor
Irvine, CA 92612

To Whom It May Concern:

My intent in writing this letter is to make a suggestion to one of my favorite places to eat – In-N-Out Burger. Far be it for me to make suggest anything that would improve on an already perfect product, but recently I discovered information that somehow tarnishes my view of what could be argued as the greatest hamburger joint on the planet.

As a Southern California native, I believe I took for granted having an In-N-Out restaurant within minutes of driving distance. Because now, after having living on the East Coast for the past 13 years, I am well aware of the fact that there is not other place like In-N-Out. Like many fans living on the opposite side of the country, whenever I have an opportunity to travel to California or Arizona, one of the first places (if not the first) I go after leaving the airport is the closest In-N-Out. I have successfully introduced In-N-Out to friends and colleagues who have never experienced the greatness that is the food. I belong to the In-N-Out fan group on Facebook and own a number of In-N-Out products. My appreciation for In-N-Out furthered after reading the glowing blurb in Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Perman’s In-N-Out Burger. Both books further my discoveries of In-N-Out’s commitment and dedication to the quality of their service and products. This knowledge not only allowed me to proclaim that In-N-Out is one of the best restaurants ever, but there was now proof to back it up.

A month ago, while visiting Southern California on vacation, I became aware of In-N-Out’s use of High Fructose Corn Syrup. While this product had never been a concern of mine before, my focus had changed when entering a relationship with a beautiful woman who has a condition known as Fructose Malabsorption. Put simply, my girlfriend cannot digest fructose the same way as someone without this condition. Because of this, she must vigilantly avoid any product with High Fructose Corn Syrup. During our vacation, I had the opportunity to introduce her In-N-Out burgers and fries that she had always heard me praise before. Before our visit, I had assumed that because of In-N-Out dedication for the freshest quality ingredients there would no use of HFCS. However, in order to make absolutely sure we began to research whether In-N-Out used HFCS in any of their products. I placed a phone call to the In-N-Out Customer Service and was thoroughly amazed and impressed that not only did a human being answer after the first ring, but also the woman I spoke with was helpful and exceptionally nice.

I was informed that HFCS is used in three products: the secret sauce for the hamburgers, the milkshakes, and the pink lemonade (the lemonade, as is the case with fountain drinks in general, is not technically an In-N-Out product and thus does not reflect In-N-Out quality standards in the same way as In-N-Out menu items). I was very surprised. Everything I had heard or read up until that point had always led me to believe that In-N-Out uses the freshest quality ingredients. According to the website, “At In-N-Out Burger, quality is everything. That’s why in a world where food is often over-processed, prepackaged and frozen, In-N-Out makes everything the old fashioned way.” From my unique perspective of being a tremendous fan of the restaurant and having a close relationship with someone who must avoid HFCS, I was more than disappointed by this discovery. To me, it seemed illogical for a company to continually proclaim the quality of their products and their commitment not use ingredients or methods that similar restaurants use.

I do not wish to further the debate of whether HFCS is to be consider a ‘natural’ ingredient or not and I am fully aware of the reasons why companies continue to use this product. But I do feel that In-N-Out could do better. If In-N-Out were to announce plans to stop using High Fructose Corn Syrup, this would only go further to prove their commitment to the quality of their food and demonstrate to their customers the importance the company lays upon this dedication. Other companies, as large as Starbucks and as others such as Jason’s Deli, have made the choice to abandon their use of HFCS in an effort to provide quality products. This is my suggestion: I believe In-N-Out can perfect perfection by stop using HFCS in the secret sauce and the milkshakes.

I have been and always will be an ardent fan and supporter of In-N-Out. It is only through my passion for the company and it’s food that I write this letter. I have always believed that In-N-Out has continued to demonstrate how to run a company dedicated to service and quality while providing customers with low prices and good food.


In-N-Out Fan

I knew the author was understanding of my dietary restrictions due to having Fructose Malabsorption.  He scans nutrition labels almost to the extent I do and watches out for HFCS in whatever food we eat together.  This dietary issue of mine has been easier to cope with as a result of having such a wonderful and supportive man in my life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Audrae Erickson: The Patron Saint of High Fructose Corn Syrup

The concept of news or web feeds, RSS syndication, whatever you want to call it, is incredibly cool, isn't it?  Web syndication technology has made it possible for someone to keep up to date with the enormous body of ever-changing news media now available 24/7.  Not only are just about all local, national, international forms of news media readily available, but also via the blogosphere, the rants and raves of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds.  Without RSS, how would we keep up to date on our favorite topics?

Well, there is one slight complication:  if you're not careful, you will get feeds for your topic that are not really relevant.    For example you're really interested in bulldogs and you set up an RSS feed and now you get all news stories about every team with bulldogs as mascots rather than only feeds about the actual dog breed.  If you wanted to post comments on each feed about how much you like bulldogs, it might be wise to, oh i don't know, read the article before you post your comment?  And if you plan to post widely and want to remain a credible authority (as opposed to a poorly informed but well-paid DC lobbyist for bulldogs) it might be wise not to have boiler plate comments you post on every single feed.

Here are a few examples (excerpted) of what not to do if you have a topic you feel passionately about (or are well-paid to represent):

Number 1:
Post a boiler plate comment on a feed that is not really relevant to your comment

The Sugar Shack in Sugar Pine
Story and photos by Thomas Atkins
This entry was posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Responses to “Alicia’s Sugar Shack”
 1.    Audrae Erickson says: High fructose corn syrup may have a complicated-sounding name, but it’s actually a simple sweetener, made from corn, that is nutritionally the same as sugar. [....]

Number 2:
Post the same thing nearly every time you submit a comment:

The Diet & Weight Loss Blog
New From Starbucks

Posted by: Audrae Erickson | Jul 10, 2009 4:50:28 PM
High fructose corn syrup may have a complicated-sounding name, but it’s simply a kind of corn sugar that is nutritionally the same as table sugar. [....]

Number 3:
Post a boiler plate comment on a feed arguing against the feed when the feed is not really taking the position you're arguing against
The Daily Texan
The right to junk food
By Colin Harris
Daily Texan Guest Columnist
Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2009

Audrae Erickson
Fri Apr 10 2009 13:50
High fructose corn syrup, sugar, and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same. [....]

But maybe i should cut her some slack….  Audrae Erickson Hughes is a hard working American making a living defending a great American product….


Um yeah.... The first screenshot really reads 778 results for the quote: "High fructose corn syrup, sugar, and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same."; the second shows that the statement "High fructose corn syrup may have a complicated-sounding name, but it’s simply a kind of corn sugar that is nutritionally the same as table sugar." has appeared in 1,120 entries.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why so defensive?

In the "Talkback" section of their website, Restaurants and Institutions recently mentioned that consumers who took part in their survey favored three particular sandwich chains.  In this survey, Restaurants and Institutions' Consumers' Choice in Chains survey, consumers were asked to rank food establishments according to a list of attributes (including: food quality, cleanliness, value, service, menu variety, convenience, reputation, atmosphere.)  The tops sandwich chains, according to consumers who took part in the survey, included: Panera, Jason's Deli, and Einsteins.
Consumers' Favorite Sandwich Spots --Restaurants and Institutions,09/01/2009

Although the write up on sandwich chains only mentioned High Fructose Corn Syrup once, the Corn Refiners Association quickly posted a lengthy and detailed defense of "corn sugar."
Submitted by: Audrae Erickson
9/3/2009 2:23:57 PM PT
Location:Washington, DC
Occupation:President, Corn Refiners Association

Consumers are being misled into thinking that there are nutritional differences between high fructose corn syrup and sugar, when in fact they are nutritionally the same. Whether from cane, beets, or corn, a sugar is a sugar. They all contain four calories per gram. Switching out a kind of corn sugar for table sugar is not for health and it is not for science. It is unfortunate that consumers are being duped by these marketing gimmicks, which may result in higher food prices at checkout.

High fructose corn syrup offers numerous benefits. For example, it retains moisture in bran cereals, helps keep breakfast and energy bars moist, maintains consistent flavors in beverages and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments. High fructose corn syrup enhances spice and fruit flavors in yogurts and marinades. In addition to its excellent browning characteristics for breads and baked goods, it is a highly fermentable nutritive sweetener and prolongs product freshness.

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

According to the American Dietetic Association, “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”

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

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association

Let's examine Audrae's comment:

Ok, the key point of the first paragraph is that HFCS (um "corn sugar") is "nutritionally the same" as table sugar. "Whether from cane, beets, or corn, a sugar is a sugar. They all contain four calories per gram."  Ok, sure.  Nutritionally speaking, they all have the same amount of calories per gram.  But only one of these "sugars" mentioned in this paragraph uses genetically altered enzymes in the chemical process required to create it.  But that caveat does not fall under "nutrition." And let's not forget: "a sugar is a sugar" after all.

Paragraph number two focuses on the many benefits of HFCS, among them: "retains moisture," "maintains consistent flavors," "enhances spice and fruit flavors," has "excellent browning characteristics," and is "highly fermentable." These benefits help the manufacturers, not the consumers (unless you argue that the savings in terms of their costs are passed down to the consumers.  But then we'd need to factor in the tariffs and price subsidies in order to assess the actual costs.)  And as to HFCS being "highly fermentable," yes it is.  In your intestines!  Yay for bloating!  Don't we all love the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The final two paragraphs quote the American Medical Association (“high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners”) and the American Dietetic Association (“high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”) Neither of these statements are ringing endorsements of HFCS.  The latter statement seems highly questionable given that it says "Once absorbed into the blood stream."  What happens along the way to the absorption into the blood stream?  How does that process (the digesting and absorption) differ if you compare the different sugars?

And one last question for you, Audrae: Why so defensive?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Corn Glut

Uh oh, not only is there a shortage of sugar due to weather conditions and other factors, but there's also an overabundance of corn. In fact, a record harvest of corn is projected for this year.  Thus, the difference in the prices of sugar versus HFCS will likely become even more dramatic.  That fact combined with the economic downturn and desirability of cheap food products with long shelf-lives means we are likely to see an increase in the number of products containing High Fructose Corn Syrup.   

Corn (C, CBOT) Daily

Source: Tale of Two Grains: Too Much Corn

I assume those of us who can't or won't or prefer not to eat food laced with HFCS will simply have to pay even more and scan ingredient lists more diligently than ever.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's the Buzzzzzzz?

Heat forms toxic substance in corn syrups
(, August 31 2009)

Heat Forms Potentially Harmful Substance In High-fructose Corn Syrup, Bee Study Finds (Science Daily, August 26, 2009)

Many articles are reporting that "colony collapse" is occurring and it is directly related to a toxic substance that is found in HFCS when it is exposed to high temperatures. According to both the above linked news story, as well as a host of others, at least 1/3rd of the U.S. honeybee population has died as a result of this issue.

Some of the articles ask readers to consider how, if it can kill honey bees, HFCS may be having a negative health impact on us. Another concern I have is more of a long term evolutionary development... if our honeybee population is vastly reduced, how will the role they play in all sorts of natural processes be carried out?

HoneyBee Decline (2007 Science Daily article on Colony Collapse Disorder and the potential outcome)

And maybe this is a stupid question, but if people bake and cook with products containing HFCS with great regularity, is that toxic substance also an issue? Baking and cooking regularly involves temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit....