Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ben and Jerry's: Maybe not "all natural" but HFCS-free!

Ben and Jerry's ice cream has made headlines again. In a flurry of news releases all linked to findings from the CSPI about the unnatural ingredients found in Ben and Jerry's "all natural" ice cream, the ingredients list of this ever-so-tasty line of ice cream has come under scrutiny. Here's an example of one such news release:
Ben & Jerry’s uses unnatural ingredients, group says

Basically CSPI is stating that there are ingredients (such as alkalized cocoa and corn syrup) in the Ben and Jerry's flavors that are labeled all-natural. Ben and Jerry's contends that they are (1) following FDA guidelines, and (2) responsive to consumer complaints and interests.

Given the issues I have with HFCS, i pretty much knew that Ben and Jerry's ice creams were safe, with one exception: Cherry Garcia. Well, it turns out that about a year ago, Ben and Jerry's changed the formula for Cherry Garcia, removing the HFCS from the cherry mix. Why? consumer interest/demand.

So, two comments on the fact that Ben and Jerry's has made headlines for unnatural ingredients:

(1) at least they're responding to their customer base

(2) in a fundamental way, the FDA and their ludicrous notion of what is "natural" is the source of the problem

Saturday, August 7, 2010

HFCS and pancreatic cancer: digging a lil' deeper

From the moment I saw the first article on a link between HFCS/fructose and pancreatic cancer (Cancer Cells Get Fat From HFCS Too), i was imagining how the Rick Berman/CCFs and Audrae Erickson/CRAs of the world would counter this claim.  Based on recent research coming out of UCLA (Fructose Induces Transketolase Flux to Promote Pancreatic Cancer Grow), this latest charge against HFCS/fructose is all the more unsettling due to the scariness of pancreatic cancer.  Here's an excerpt from the abstract of this recent UCLA study:
Here, we report that fructose provides an alternative substrate to induce pancreatic cancer cell proliferation. Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different; in comparison with glucose, fructose induces thiamine-dependent transketolase flux and is preferentially metabolized via the nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathway to synthesize nucleic acids and increase uric acid production. These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation. They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth. Cancer Res; 70(15); 6368–76. ©2010 AACR.
So, just how did Rick Berman's CCF react to the UCLA study?  In Fudging Fructose Findings, the author presents the usual arguments (paraphrased here): HFCS and sugar have nearly the same amount of fructose; it's all pseudoscience; Americans don't even really consume that much HFCS; and rates of pancreatic cancer in men have gone down so what the heck is all this nonesense about, anyway?

So, let's just look at the CCF's defense of HFCS for a few seconds, exploring a couple points further.  

1. The claim, and they quote of course Marion Nestle, is that "HFCS is not particularly high in fructose compared to table sugar. Both are about 50% fructose and are about equal in their effects."


Why, seriously, this drives me crazy, WHY is someone like Marion Nestle even regarded as an expert after making claims like this?  I've said it before (and so have others), but (happily for CCF and CRA and all the other folks who make money off HFCS) people still seem to be confused:

There are multiple types of HFCS with varying ratios of fructose to glucose; consumers cannot (just by reading labels) know which type of HFCS they are getting.  That said, even the most common form of HFCS, the roughly 55% fructose/45%glucose, actually has more fructose than table sugar.  Not a lot more, but enough to offset absorption.

The fact that HFCS varieties exist in even higher concentrations, fructose-wise, seems to be ignored by Marion Nestle.  CCF and CRA will tell you that they are seldom used.  In a previous post, I take issue with just how seldom these other types of HFCS appear (using none other than the words of manufacturers as evidence.)

2. Pancreatic cancer rates have gone down in men.  That's terrific.  Honestly, that's great news.  According to Cancer Facts and Figures 2010: "Incidence rates of pancreatic cancer have been stable in men since 1981, but have been increasing in women by 1.7% per year since 2000."

PER YEAR?  That's kind of scary, isn't it?

Why the difference between men and women?  Now, i don't think even the authors cited by CCF are brilliant enough to assume that something like pancreatic cancer is caused by just one factor, but even if you look solely at HFCS and consider the information cited above, an interesting disparity emerges.

Not to self-promote, but there's no point being redundant either: In one of my posts from June, HFCS-90, I researched a variety of HFCS that CRA claims is seldom used except in the creation of other varieties of HFCS.  I found, by exploring websites from HFCS manufacturers, that HFCS-90 is in fact used in a number of manufactured goods.  This is a form of HFCS that is 90....   NINETY....

yes, that's right....
percent fructose.

What are the manufactured goods that contain HFCS-90?  Oh, let's see.... yogurt, especially low-calorie varieties, frozen desserts, especially low-cal types, and some other diet sweets.

Who, let's just take a stab in the dark, who, in terms of gender, is more prone to purchase and consume: yogurt, low-cal frozen desserts, and other low-cal sweets?

Women?  Really?  Can it be?

Well, now, let's revisit the percentages above regarding pancreatic cancer, broken down by gender.  Interesting, isn't it?  Now, I am not trying to say that there's just one cause for this disparity between pancreatic cancer and how it's affecting men and women, but it's certainly interesting that there's an apparent link to fructose and women are the consumers more prone to eat items with HFCS-90. 

Oh, and just in case i wasn't clear in my post on HFCS-90....

Labels never say which HFCS you're consuming....  convenient, isn't it?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Waffle House: Is there HFCS in them there waffles?

The Waffle House, an American icon and source of sustenance for travelers across the South for decades, is famously mum on the ingredients in their food.

My fascination with the Waffle House began pretty much at the same time that I first entered one and saw that they had their own music on the jukebox (in addition to a smattering of oldies, classics, and current hits.) At least as far as I knew, no other fast food/breakfast joint had their own music.  The kitsch value was too high not to be impressed.  And the waffles were quite tasty, too.  Top that off with the fact that there wasn't a local Waffle House where I lived at the time, and you get a recipe for obsession (yes, i wrote to corporate HQ and asked them to remedy the dearth of Waffle Houses in my area.)

Every chance I could, i dined at the Waffle House.  For me it was quite significant to have the opportunity.

When I learned about HFCS and my need to avoid it due to fructose malabsorption, I was pretty certain that the Waffle House, a favorite of mine for decades, would now be on the no-go list.

Well, i researched it and basically found that Waffle House Corporate HQ doesn't divulge information about their recipes.  I kept meaning to write to them again, but since there wasn't one where I now live, it was out of sight-out of mind. 

On a recent work trip, i passed by Waffle Houses and I once again i wondered: Is there HFCS is those famous waffles?

So, I wrote to them.  I am always impressed when a company writes back with a response tailored to my question.  So, here's what they said:
Thank you for inquiring about Waffle House nutritional information and ingredients. Upon checking, we’ve found the waffle mix and sugar free syrup do not contain high fructose corn syrup, but the regular syrup does.
So, rejoice! If you avoid HFCS for whatever reason, you can still enjoy Waffle House Waffles, but just make sure to request the sugar free syrup!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The joys of international travel

While to many people it may seem like an absurd thing to be joyful about, for me one of the joys of traveling to other countries is not having to worry about HFCS.  Whereas in the US, i order diet soda because of the presence of High Fructose Corn Syrup in almost all non-diet varieties, in most of countries you can recklessly order regular soda!  It's lovely!

The sad thing, though, is that this joy may be fleeting...  Due to the wonders of capitalism and globalization, HFCS is making its way into foreign markets, perniciously slinking in like a pestilence.  With different names for HFCS depending on the country, scrutinizing labels while on international travel will not only become necessary as this trend continues but will also pose some difficulties.  Whether it's called Isoglucose or Glucose Fructose Syrup or some other variety, HFCS is rearing its ugly head in other markets.  Just as a sad example, while on the plane back to the US, i checked the label on the jam packet served with the bread during the breakfast "meal."  The jam was of French origin (not Kraft or Smuckers or some American crap).  No worries then, right?  HFCS in French jam?  No way.

Yes, way.  It was there, listed as Sirop de Fructose-Glucose.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sugar and HFCS: comparing the manufacturing processes

Tate & Lyle, a UK-based ingredient manufacturer, includes in its portfolio of manufactured goods a wide-range of sweeteners (apparently some of its sugar brands have recently been acquired by American Sugar Refining.)  On the Tate & Lyle website there's a wealth of information about its products, including High Fructose Corn Syrup, cane sugar, as well as what they term "high-intensity sweeteners," such as Splenda.  Tate & Lyle's informative descriptions and diagrams of the manufacturing process of their sweeteners are very useful for those of us trying to understand the fundamental differences between HFCS and sugar.

What does Tate & Lyle tell us about HFCS?

Well, first of all, HFCS and cane sugar, while comprised of the same basic compounds, differ fundamentally in how they are processed.  Tate & Lyle states:
Although High Fructose Corn Syrup is essentially comprised of the same compounds as sucrose, namely glucose and fructose, unlike sucrose, which is usually refined from sugar cane, the raw material of HFCS (corn), must undergo a great deal of processing to create HFCS.
So, although chemically speaking, the compounds are similar, the "great deal of processing" required to create HFCS differentiates HFCS from cane sugar.

Secondly, "Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Genetically Modified?"
Those concerned with the consumption of GM foods have expressed concern with regards to HFCS, as GM corn is often the source of this product. Whilst it is true that HFCS is produced from genetically modified corn, corn starch extracted from the corn undergoes so much processing, and the products of the processes are so removed from corn that there is no detectable corn DNA present in HFCS. This means that HFCS itself contains no genetically modified material.
So, that means, IF HFCS were not so extremely processed, it would contain Genically Modified material; because it undergoes such an extreme amount of processing that the very DNA of the genetically modified corn that goes into HFCS is no longer detectable.  That's supposed to make us feel good about HFCS?  It is so damned processed that the initial substance is processed right out of the ultimate product.

That scares me.

Ok, lastly, let's take the diagram of the process involved in cane sugar refining and compare it to the process for wet-milling corn

What does this comparison show?  Well, as complex as both sets of processes are, only the HFCS chart contains a node where "further processing" occurs.

While I have my own conclusions, I welcome insights about how refined cane sugar products differ from refined corn products.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Corn Refining Process (step-by-step)

The below page (source) is just too good not to post. 

In my view, it doesn't even need much editorializing...  nothing artificial about this process....  noooooooooooooo.....  it's all natural.......  that's au naturel to you....
you betcha'

Corn Refiners 
Refinery staff inspect arriving corn shipments and clean them twice to remove cob, dust, chaff and foreign materials before steeping, the first processing step, begins. Corn refining has been the fastest growing market for U.S. agriculture over the past twenty years, and refiners now use around 16% of the $21 billion U.S. corn crop. Since a large amount of the nations' corn production never leaves the farm on which it was produced, corn refining is a vital factor in the cash market for U.S. corn. Each day the production of about 33 thousand acres of corn arrives at corn refining facilities before conversion to food, industrial and feed products.

STEEPING Each stainless steel steep tank holds about 3,000 bushels of corn for 30 to 40 hours of soaking in 50 degree Celsius water. During steeping, the kernels absorb water, increasing their moisture levels from 15 percent to 45 percent and more than doubling in size. The addition of 0.1 percent sulfur dioxide to the water prevents excessive bacterial growth in the warm environment. As the corn swells and softens, the mild acidity of the steepwater begins to loosen the gluten bonds within the corn and release the starch. After steeping, the corn is coarsely ground to break the germ loose from other components. Steepwater is condensed to capture nutrients in the water for use in animal feeds and for a nutrient for later fermentation processes. The ground corn, in a water slurry, flows to the germ separators.
GERM SEPARATION Cyclone separators spin the low density corn germ out of the slurry. The germs, containing about 85% of corn's oil, are pumped onto screens and washed repeatedly to remove any starch left in the mixture. A combination of mechanical and solvent processes extracts the oil from the germ. The oil is then refined and filtered into finished corn oil. The germ residue is saved as another useful component of animal feeds.
FINE GRINDING AND SCREENING The corn and water slurry leaves the germ separator for a second, more thorough, grinding in an impact or attrition-impact mill to release the starch and gluten from the fiber in the kernel. the suspension of starch, gluten and fiber flows over fixed concave screens (illlustrated) which catch fiber but allow starch and gluten to pass through. The fiber is collected, slurried and screened again to reclaim any residual starch or protein, then piped to the feed house as a major ingredient of animal feeds. The starch-gluten suspension, called mill starch, is piped to the starch separators.
STARCH SEPARATION Gluten has a low density compared to starch. By passing mill starch through a centrifuge, the gluten is readily spun out for use in animal feeds. The starch, with just one or two percent protein remaining, is diluted, washed 8 to 14 times, rediluted and washed again in hydroclones to remove the last trace of protein and produce high quality starch, typically more than 99.5 percent pure. Some of the starch is dried and marketed as unmodified corn starch, some is modified into specialty starches, but most is converted into corn syrups and dextrose.
SYRUP CONVERSION Starch, suspended in water, is liquified in the presence of acid and/or enzymes which convert the starch to a low-dextrose solution. Treatment with another enzyme continues the conversion process. Throughout the process, refiners can halt acid or enzyme actions at key points to produce the right mixture of sugars like dextrose and maltose for syrups to meet different needs. In some syrups, the conversion of starch to sugars is halted at an early stage to produce low-to-medium sweetness syrups. In others, the conversion is allowed to proceed until the syrup is nearly all dextrose. The syrup is refined in filters, centrifuges and ion-exchange columns, and excess water is evaporated. Syrups are sold directly, crystallized into pure dextrose, or processed further to create high fructose corn syrup (illustrated).
FERMENTATION Dextrose is one of the most fermentable of all of the sugars. Following conversion of starch to dextrose, many corn refiners pipe dextrose to fermentation facilities where the dextrose is converted to alcohol by traditional yeast fermentation or to amino acids and other bioproducts through either yeast or bacterial fermentation. After fermentation, the resulting broth is distilled to recover alcohol or concentrated through membrane separation to produce other bioproducts. Carbon dioxide from fermentation is recaptured for sale and nutrients remaining after fermentation are used as components of animal feed ingredients.
Return home...
 Copyright © The Corn Refiners Association, 2007
 Direct all questions to: Contact CRA

Fresh, Real Food...

Jason's Deli, a place I never tire of praising, has another video worth seeing.  Not as funny as the other video I posted last year, but it's informative/educational!

Monday, July 5, 2010

HFCS: There's something wrong with it

Celebrating its 125th birthday, Dr Pepper will switch from HFCS to sugar from roughly now until September.  Is it just a gimmick?  An article from the Associated Press suggests that if this move is successful, it may actually cause headaches for drink manufacturers later...


There seems to be growing demand for it [switching from HFCS to sugar], as evidenced by Pepsi's success with Throwback, even the second time around, he said.
But drink makers are also wary of sending a message that there's anything wrong with high fructose corn syrup.
"In some ways their worst nightmare is that this thing sells through the roof, because then that's telling them something about how consumers feel about their product," he said.

When will our pals from the Corn Refiners Association and Center for Consumer Freedom realize that many consumers really don't want their "corn sugar"?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nothing Artificial, no gimmicks

Audrae Erickson's Corn Refiners Association (CRA) and Richard Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) contend that when a company advertises that their product has "no high fructose corn syrup," it's really just a gimmick.  CRA/CCF even assert that consumers are being misled into believing that products advertised in this way are healthier for them than products that are not advertised in this manner.  Just to give an example, see CCF's "A Not-So-Sweet Marketing Gimmick."  Here's an excerpt from that article:
We noted a few months back that some companies (like Starbucks) that market their goods as free of high fructose corn syrup are just jumping on a health-fad bandwagon. New products replacing high fructose corn syrup with table sugar are nutritionally the same as before. Why? Because high fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as table sugar.
Well, ok fine: maybe the number of calories are the same (whether the item in question has HFCS or sugar.) But maybe, just maybe, consumers want to know that what they're eating involves no genetically modified enzymes (glucose isomerase, one of the key ingredients in HFCS).  Maybe folks like me, who have fructose malabsorption, won't get sick from a product as long as it doesn't have HFCS in it (or too much fructose of any variety.)  Maybe people want items that have ingredients they understand and ingredients that won't survive a nuclear holocaust.  Maybe people just want the freedom to choose what they eat.  Wait, isn't this allegedly Non-Profit organization actually called the Center for Consumer Freedom??  What's wrong with this picture??

Anyway, CRA/CCF meet Flippin' Pizza.

What I find interesting about this flier I found in my mailbox is as follows:

(1). This is NOT an example of a company that replaced the sugar in their product with HFCS.  In fact, they pride themselves on neither having HFCS NOR added sugars. 
(2).  A small pizza chain (with a handful of locations in the greater DC metropolitan area, and then a few restaurants in California) advertises their product by alerting consumers that they will get a high-quality, hand-tossed pizza, New York style, with nothing artificial, which means (according to the flier)
  • No added oil
  • No added sugar
  • No high fructose corn syrup
What CCF terms the "health-fad bandwagon" works! People WANT ingredients they understand.  They want fresh ingredients rather than a massive list of undecipherable chemically/enzymatically altered multisyllabic terms designating materials that will outlive the average centenarian.

So, if a company like Flippin' Pizza uses their advertising budget in order to let customers know that their pizza was not only voted "best" but also has ingredients pizza should have, then good for them!  Why should pizza have added sugar? HFCS? added oil?  Why is that needed?  It's not.  So, Flippin' Pizza can not only win "best" pizza, but also do so without overloading its products with insane amounts of crap.   

Disclaimer: Just to be clear-- i have no connection to this or any other food manufacturer or restaurant.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HFCS from the perspective of fluid management

is a company that plays a role in HFCS manufacturing.  I mention them only because of a company brochure, Food and Dairy, they published that contains a fascinating diagram of HFCS production.

Just makes it all seem so.... natural.... doesn't it?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Mecurial Nature of High Fructose Corn Syrup

I came across a segment by Alan Watt on HFCS that raised a number of very interesting points, one of which spurred me to do a little research.  I certainly recommend listening to the whole segment: the "video" link is at the bottom of this post. 

Ok, so, on to what inspired me to do some digging:   Mr Watt mentions that the industry defense against the charges of mercury contamination in HFCS focused on the fact that the information was outdated.  Here are a couple examples from our favorite lobbyist group of exactly that argument:


HFCS Mercury Study Flawed

Alan Watt more of less says: ok so HFCS USED to contain mercury?  And now it doesn't?  Well that's certainly reassuring. 

One of the reports that characterizes the intentional mercury "contamination" is Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup, by David Wallinga, M.D., Janelle Sorensen, Pooja Mottl, Brian Yablon, M.D. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minnesota: January 2009.)  This document suggests that the early stages of HFCS production may involve an agent that contains mercury.
HFCS is synthesized in a highly specialized, industrial process using a number of enzymes and other inputs. Either membrane-grade or mercury-grade caustic soda can be used. At the beginning of the process, caustic soda helps separate the corn starch from the corn kernel. Along with hydrochloric acid, it also is used throughout the process to maintain a pH balance.
So, how did Audrae Erickson react to this study, as well as other related reports?  Well, she of course denied the charges on the grounds, as stated above and in the title, that the study was overcome by events.  (The Corn Refiners Association also paid folks to disprove the studies.) Here's the complete news release:


January 26, 2009
CONTACT: Audrae Erickson, President
(202) 331-1634
WASHINGTON, DC – The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) today challenged the relevance and accuracy of information published by Environmental Health asserting that certain tests found measurable levels of mercury in high fructose corn syrup.
“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance. Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances,” stated Audrae Erickson, President, Corn Refiners Association. “For more than 150 years, corn wet millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply.”
“It is important that Americans are provided accurate, science-based information. They should know that high fructose corn syrup is safe,” continued Erickson. “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.”
“High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets FDA’s requirements for the use of the term ‘natural.” Erickson said.

ok, so what's interesting about this rebuttal?  First of all: "Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years."  As Alan Watt pointed out: oh, so for several years now the HFCS we have been consuming in everything from sodas to salad dressings is now safe.  Great!  So, for how many years we were consuming HFCS containing mercury?  

And then Ms Erickson continues on about how safe this product is.  What's her proof?  Well, the FDA, of course and the designation of HFCS as GRAS in 1996.  What's wrong with this picture?

What Ms. Erickson is saying is that HFCS, for several years now, has been manufactured using technology advanced enough that they can avoid mercury "contamination."  It's safe; well at least now it's safe.  And it has been for several years.  What does "several" mean to you?  Well, just for the sake of objectivity, let's get a definition from a dictionary:

  1. Being of a number more than two or three but not many: several miles away.

Now, let's be generous.  This news release came out in 2009.  Several often means 2 or 3, but let's just say it means 5 here.  That means that some time around 2004 (plus or minus a year or two), HFCS began being manufactured using "mercury-free reagents."  Well, even with these generous parameters, that means the FDA designated HFCS as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) at a time (1996) when there was probably a 50% or greater chance that the "reagents" used to manufacture it contained mercury.

Ok, so returning to the press release...
“High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets FDA’s requirements for the use of the term ‘natural.” Erickson said.
HFCS is "natural" because the FDA says so; the FDA, remember, is the same group that designated HFCS that may be "contaminated" with mercury as GRAS.  And Ms Erickson states that HFCS contains nothing artificial or synthetic.  The genetically modified Glucose Isomerase used in HFCS production is, according to her way of thinking, neither artificial nor synthetic.  Why, HFCS doesn't even have color additives. 

Just what ingredients are artificial or synthetic by these standards? And anyway, natural does not mean safe!  I could start naming toxins that naturally occur, but this post is already long enough...

Alan Watt - Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury

Corn: It's No Longer King

Corn: It's No Longer King

by TESS LANDERS Arlington, VA

With corn consumption at an all-time low, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it will put a stop to the majority of subsidy payments to industrial corn farmers. During a press conference on the White House lawn, USDA officials pointed out that even though corn famers project another bumper crop of 12.9 billion bushels this year, it expects corn consumption to be only 1 billion bushels.
"The USDA, in good conscience, can no longer make subsidy payments for a product that the U.S. citizens no longer wish to consume, whether directly, through corn and corn products like high-fructose corn syrup, or indirectly through the meat they eat," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Starting in 2010, the USDA will only subsidize enough corn to meet demand. You will no longer see mountains of unused corn across the Midwest."
The USDA has dolled out more than $56.2 billion in corn subsidy payments from 1995 to 2006, the latest year for which data is available.
By drastically reducing the number of subsidy payments for corn, the USDA will be able to provide payments to farmers that produce products that are increasingly in demand, including grass-fed beef and locally grown organic vegetables, officials said.
"We will also provide subsidy payments to corn farmers that wish to transition their farms to other products," Vilsack said.
Corn farmers oppose the USDA's decision, but they will adapt to consumer demand, according to industry groups like the National Corn Growers Association. Other groups applauded the decision, citing the increasing number of food manufacturers, like S.B. Thomas, makers of English muffins and other bread products, that have incorporated "now with no high fructose corn syrup" in their packaging. They also cite a grassroots effort by consumers nationwide to eat corn-free diets.

In the best of all possible worlds... 

Too bad there's no way for readers to post comments on the original story.... i would love to see Audrae Erickson's comment on this one...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Subway, Eat Fresh! Would you like some bread with that High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Would you like some bread with that High Fructose Corn Syrup?

A recent Slashfood article is drawing lots of attention in the blogosphere. It's well deserved attention.  Subway, with its "Eat Fresh" logo and its Jared story and all its links to nutrition websites truly earned an article such as this one.
Subway Sandwich: Lettuce, Tomato, High-Fructose Corn Syrup? 
by Nichol Nelson, Posted Jun 22nd 201

If you look at their ingredients page, you see some a whole host of products containing HFCS: preservative-laden breads, meats in prepared sauces, condiments, cookies, and then there's the list of varieties of Fruizle Express. 

Let's take a closer look at these fat free smoothies:
BERRY LISHUS Water, sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, pasteurized strawberry puree, citric acid, xanthan gum, Fruizle Strawberry Flavor Mix (contains: malic acid, natural flavors, citric acid, ascorbic acid, freeze-dried strawberry juice concentrate, maltodextrin, freeze-dried raspberry juice concentrate), sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate to preserve freshness, natural flavor, propylene glycol, artificial flavor, artificial color FD&C red #40. Optional ingredient: Banana slices (bananas, ascorbic acid, citric acid). 
PEACH PIZAZZ Water, sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, pasteurized peach puree, pasteurized strawberry puree, natural flavors, citric acid, xanthan gum, Fruizle Kiwi Flavor Mix (contains: malic acid, citric acid, ascorbic acid, natural flavors and artificial flavors, freeze-dried key lime juice concentrate, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, artificial colors: yellow #5, blue #1), sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate to preserve freshness, propylene glycol, artificial colors FD&C yellow #5 and #6, and red #40. 
PINEAPPLE DELIGHT Water, sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, pasteurized pineapple puree, pasteurized orange juice concentrate, pasteurized pineapple juice concentrate, citric acid, xanthan gum, Fruizle Pineapple flavor mix (contains: malic acid, freeze-dried pineapple juice concentrate, ascorbic acid, citric acid, natural flavor, artificial color: yellow #5) sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate to preserve freshness, propylene glycol, natural flavors, artificial flavor, artificial colors FD&C yellow #5 and #6. Optional ingredient: Banana slices (bananas, ascorbic acid, citric acid). 
SUNRISE ENERGIZER Water, sugar, high fructose, corn sweeteners, pasteurized mango puree, pasteurized orange juice concentrate, citric acid, xanthan gum, Fruizle Tangerine flavor mix (contains: malic acid, ascorbic acid, natural flavor, citric acid, freeze-dried lemon juice concentrate, maltodextrin, freeze-dried grapefruit juice concentrate, artificial color: yellow #5) sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate to preserve freshness, natural flavors, propylene glycol, artificial flavors, artificial colors FD&C yellow #5 and #6.
Um ok, so they're fat free.  Yay.  but just how many kinds of sweeteners and just how much chemical crap is in each one?  

Eat Fresh indeed....

Monday, June 21, 2010


Proponents of High Fructose Corn Syrup often do not mention the different types of HFCS that exist, differing in terms of the ratio of fructose to glucose. (I have already made a post about the fact that there are different types; in this post i delve into HFCS-90 specifically.)

Consumers of products containing HFCS never know which type HFCS they are consuming. Are they consuming HFCS that has more fructose than cane sugar, or not? When HFCS-proponents address the different ratios, they are quick to point out that most American manufactured goods contain either HFCS-42 or HFCS-55; so even if it's the 55% fructose variety, it's still barely more fructose than is found in cane sugar. Ok, i know there are medical professionals who say that extra 5% matters, but I am not a trained professional in that area, so who am I to judge?

(source for the slide, Dr G. Harvey Anderson, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in Beverages: Impact on Appetite & Food Intake Reviewing The Science, Understanding the Controversies, Sponsored by the Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness of the Coca Cola Company)

Just for good measure, here's a quote from the Corn Refiners Association Sweet Surprise website that suggests the same basic break-down (source)
high fructose corn syrup has either 42 % or 55% fructose, with the remaining sugars being primarily glucose.

What about HFCS-90? Why don't they mention that form of HFCS?

Oh, well rest assured, according to Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain't, we have nothing to worry about:
Mention of HFCS with higher fructose content (ie, HFCS-80 or HFCS-90) is occasionally seen in the literature, but these products are highly specialized and are manufactured infrequently and in insignificant amounts.
Here's the full paragraph: 

John S. White, Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain'tAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 6, 1716S-1721S, Dec 2008

So, then why are there so many references to HFCS-90 in pro-HFCS trade literature?

Here are some examples (there are a multitude; these are representative):

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)—A corn sweetener derived from the wet milling of corn. Cornstarch is converted to a syrup that is nearly all dextrose. Enzymes isomerize the dextrose to produce a 42 percent fructose syrup called HFCS-42. By passing HFCS-42 through an ion-exchange column that retains fructose, corn refiners draw off 90 percent HFCS and blend it with HFCS-42 to make a third syrup, HFCS-55. HFCS is found in numerous foods and beverages on the grocery store shelves. HFCS-90 is used in natural and "light" foods in which very little is needed to provide sweetness. (ERS, USDA). Total fiber is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber.
(Source: Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans)

Supersweet HFCS-90 is used in natural and "light" foods where very little is needed to provide sweetness.
(Source:  ERS/USDA, High-Fructose Corn Syrup Production and Prices)

How about good ol' ADM?

And then there are some industry studies that reference the use of HFCS-90 in:
And we also have a reference from Corn Products International, excerpted from "Product Overview"
We also produce HFCS-90, used in specialty and low-calorie foods
So, why doesn't the Corn Refiners Association mention HFCS-90?

Well, actually they do, but you have to look for it:

Supersweet 90-HFCS is valued in natural and "light" foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness.
(source: Corn Sweeteners, 2008)

Interesting, isn't it, that it's the same wording as the two above quotes from the USDA?  It's just simply puzzling...

Oh, what's also interesting is that the FDA explicitly stated that it's 1996 designation of HFCS as GRAS does not apply to HFCS-90.

Because HFCS–90 has not been included in this rulemaking, consideration of the GRAS status of this substance will need to proceed through the petition process in accordance with § 170.35.
Why was HFCS-90 not submitted for GRAS consideration? 
In the above-quoted ruling, the FDA voiced concern "because HFCS-90 does not contain approximately equimolar amounts of glucose and fructose."  So, are we to conclude that HFCS-90 is truly hardly ever used except for in the case of the production of HFCS-55? (note: i find it unusual that they use it to produce HFCS-55...)  If it is truly hardly ever used, then why are there so many references to it being in this and that kind of product?

It just seems odd that we as consumers can't verify which HFCS is contained in manufactured food goods.  Since HFCS-90 is clearly being used in some frozen desserts, yogurts, condiments, diet products, and baked goods, why can't we as consumers have more information provided to us with respect to which HFCS we're eating (unless we avoid it altogether...)?

It seems a bit disingenuous that the Corn Refiners and the rest of the King Corn gang are always citing FDA rulings and saying HFCS is safe and GRAS and all that good stuff, with out providing consumers more information about which HFCS variety is in what products.  it's almost as though they're trying to cover up the fact that there's not just one HFCS....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Audrae, Audrae, Audrae.... will your tactics never change?

In a previous post, Audrae Erickson: The Patron Saint of High Fructose Corn Syrup, I mentioned that there are certain PR techniques that strike a note of desperation; using such techniques is either (a) an indication that you regard the intended audience as naive and ignorant, or (b) the person using the techniques is not the most savvy lobbyist, or (c) both!

Just to recap what not to do if you have a topic you feel passionately about and want to be convincing:
  • Number 1: Post a boiler plate comment on a feed that is not really relevant to your comment
  • Number 2: Post the same thing nearly every time you submit a comment:
  • 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 
Now 57 times is certainly not a record; previous boiler plate comments were posted with much greater abandon (see the blog entry linked in the first sentence).  But I really thought she'd shifted tactics?  Oh well.

Here's my favorite from this batch:

The Reporter Online (, Serving North Penn, PA Life

Ketchup shake-up: Heinz cuts salt in new recipe

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Heinz fans can be ketchup snobs.

The condiment's Facebook page has more than 390,000 fans, including Rona Doyle, who recently wrote, "Heinz only -- all others are garbage and a perfectly good waste of tomatoes," and Wendy Gottorff, whose father was buried with a bottle of Heinz ketchup. Another Facebook page, called "Heinz Ketchup Is The Only Ketchup," has almost 5,500 fans since being launched in January.

These are the people who threaten to walk out of restaurants if Hunt's is served.

That loyalty could be tested this summer.

Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co. is messing around with the recipe for its flagship product, reducing the sodium content in a move that the company described as the first "significant" change in the nation's dominant brand of the tomato-based condiment in nearly 40 years.

A little more than a week ago, employees began cooking up the new version. Bottles of reformulated Heinz ketchup are expected to start appearing, quietly, in grocery stores this summer.

Don't expect splashy announcements on the labels or anything. That's not in the plan, a company spokeswoman said.

Heinz is moving carefully but with confidence that consumers will be OK with the new recipe initially developed at its research center in Marshall, Pa.

"The initial consumer taste tests were conducted in Pittsburgh, before we expanded to six cities across the U.S., to ensure the recipe met our consumers' expectations," said Jessica Jackson, a company spokeswoman.

The food company has long offered different versions around the world, tailored to local tastes.

There's always some risk in tinkering with a well-known -- even beloved -- product. Marketers shudder when they remember the New Coke scenario, in which the Coca-Cola company touted its improved flavor only to have some consumers demand a return of the original.

Heinz may not have had a lot of choice in this case, as the trends in the food industry have been toward less salt. Health experts worry about the effects on the population of consuming too much sodium, which has been implicated in high blood pressure and heart disease.

In late 2007, Heinz was one of a number of companies represented at a meeting to discuss what the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency was doing to reduce salt use, and in 2008 the Daily Mail in London reported that Heinz ketchup and Kellogg's cornflakes were among a long list of foods under pressure to reduce sodium. In April, the company was on a list of 16 food companies cited by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as having committed to cutting salt levels in their products.

The new version of Heinz ketchup will have 15 percent less salt, dropping from 190 mg of sodium per serving to 160 mg, said Jackson. Consumers will need to check the Nutrition Facts Panel on the back of the label to notice the change, she said.

The company said the move would make Heinz ketchup the lowest-sodium ketchup available nationally, a necessary distinction since there are several niche ketchup products available. Heinz itself offers organic, reduced-sugar and no-salt-added varieties, and is developing a new version called Simply Heinz that will be made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Although Heinz-ketchup fans leave little doubt that they know what they want, Americans in general seem conflicted about the salt issue. In April, the market research firm NPD Group reported that Americans were concerned about the amount of sodium in their diets but that the number who actually are consuming low-sodium and sodium-free foods was down.

Did the Salt lobby post a comment?  This article was really about salt-content.  No, there's only one comment.  One lonely little comment...  one sad little boiler-plate comment from our favorite cut-and-paster.....

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Long Overdue Tribute to Clif Bar

I cannot even begin to estimate the number of Clif Bars I have eaten.  For years now, I have eaten at least one a day, at least five days a week. 

Before I even started scrutinizing labels, Clif Bars were my portable food of choice.  Once I identified HFCS as the cause for my intestinal distress, I was thrilled that Clif Bars (already a staple of my diet) were still something I could enjoy. 

So, I would like to highlight Clif Bars as an excellent, high quality, HFCS-free product. 

More on their food philosophy

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Generally Recognized as Safe"

The Corn Refiners Association's website, Sweet Surprise, cites the designation GRAS from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as proof that high fructose corn syrup should be considered a safe food ingredient.
Yes. In 1983, the FDA listed high fructose corn syrup as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (known as GRAS status) for use in food and reaffirmed that ruling in 1996.

Well,  GRAS, which (as stated above) means “Generally Recognized as Safe,” doesn't exactly sound to me like a resounding endorsement.  Whatever you may think GRAS means and whatever you read into that designation, there's something else to consider:

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report suggests that the FDA designation GRAS is not a problem-free designation.  The report, "Food Safety: FDA Should Strengthen Its Oversight of Food Ingredients Determined to Be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) GAO-10-246 February 3, 2010," suggests that the "FDA has not taken certain steps that could help ensure the safety of GRAS determinations."  So, in plain English: GRAS may not really mean “Generally Recognized as Safe.”  Instead, according to the GAO report, there may be examples of conflicts of interest, examples of procedures not followed, and instances in which the FDA has simply taken a manufacturer's word about whatever it is.  
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of most of the U.S. food supply, does not review many of the substances added to food that manufacturers determine to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) under the conditions of their intended use. Manufacturers add these substances—hundreds of spices and artificial flavors, emulsifiers and binders, vitamins and minerals, and preservatives—to enhance a food’s taste, texture, nutritional content, or shelf life. GRAS substances can be marketed without FDA’s approval or even its knowledge because such substances are generally recognized among qualified experts as having been shown, through scientific procedures or experience based on common use, to be safe. Some consider GRAS substances to warrant less oversight because they generally pose a relatively low level of threat to public health. However, a few substances previously assumed to be GRAS, such as cyclamate salts, have later been banned; and more recently, consumer groups have raised concerns about the safety of certain other GRAS substances, such as salt and trans fats in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. (page 1)
so, what did the GAO recommend as a way ahead?
GAO Recommendations

To better ensure FDA’s oversight of the safety of GRAS substances, we recommend that the Commissioner of FDA take the following six actions:
•    develop a strategy to require any company that conducts a GRAS determination to provide FDA with basic information—as defined by the agency to allow for adequate oversight—about this determination, such as the substance’s identity and intended uses, and to incorporate such information into relevant agency databases and its public Web site;
•    develop a strategy to minimize the potential for conflicts of interest in companies’ GRAS determinations, including taking steps such as issuing guidance for companies on conflict of interest and requiring information in GRAS notices regarding expert panelists’ independence;
•    develop a strategy to monitor the appropriateness of companies’ GRAS determinations through random audits or some other means, including issuing guidance on how to document GRAS determinations;
•    develop a strategy to finalize the rule that governs the voluntary notification program, including taking into account the experience of the program to date, incorporating input from a new public comment period, and reporting to Congress and the public the agency’s timeline for making it final;
•    develop a strategy to conduct reconsiderations of the safety of GRAS substances in a more systematic manner, including taking steps such as allocating sufficient resources to respond to citizen petitions in a timely manner, developing criteria for the circumstances under which the agency will reconsider the safety of a GRAS substance, and considering how to collect information from companies on their reconsiderations; and
•    develop a strategy to help ensure the safety of engineered nanomaterials that companies market as GRAS substances without the agency’s knowledge, including taking steps such as issuing guidance recommended by the agency’s nanotechnology taskforce, developing an agency definition of engineered nanomaterials, and requiring companies to inform FDA if their GRAS determinations involve engineered nanomaterials. (pages 34-35)
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?   I guess we now understand better how the FDA could judge that HFCS is "natural."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And now for a definition of HFCS from the Corn Refiners Assiciation

This definition or "classification," provided by Corn Refiners Association on page 6 of their 2006 report, "Nutritive Sweeteners From Corn,"certainly makes HFCS sound appetizing, doesn't it?
High Fructose Corn Syrup is a purified concentrated aqueous solution of nutritive saccharides obtained from edible starch in which a portion of the dextrose has been isomerized to fructose. It contains a minimum 42 percent fructose on a dry basis.
And on pages 19-20, the report contains a description of the manufacturing process of HFCS. 
In the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup, dextrose solutions or high DE substrates produced by dual enzyme processes (α-amy- lase plus glucoamylase or α- amylase plus glucoamylase/ pullulanase) are refined by carbon and ion-exchange systems and further treated enzymatically with a purified isomerase. The isomerase reactors use an immobilized enzyme system enabling continuous isomerization and extending the life of the enzymes. Isomerization is usually carried to a point where the substrate contains 42 percent fructose. Following this step the product is refined again through carbon and ion exchange systems and is evaporated to a dry substance of 71 percent.
In the production of syrups with a fructose level above 50 percent, the original 42 percent fructose feedstock is passed through separation (fractionation) columns that retain fructose while allowing dextrose to pass through the column. This is made possible because of the natural affinity of fructose for divalent calcium immobilized on the column. Fructose retained in these columns is flushed from the system with deionized water, while the dextrose is recirculated for further isomerization. Continuous systems relying on a simulated moving bed model are utilized for this separation process. The enriched fructose fraction is generally recovered at an 80 to 95 percent purity. This product is blended with the 42 percent fructose feedstock to produce a commercial product with 55 percent fructose content. After blending, the syrup is refined again with both carbon and ion exchange systems and is evaporated to a dry solids level of 77 percent. The enriched fructose fraction may also be refined and evaporated separately for sale to users who desire a product with very high fructose content.
From my perspective, it's truly interesting to read the above descriptions carefully.  The intended audience for this report appears to be the users of HFCS rather than consumers.  Words like "feedstock" and expressions such as "enriched fructose fraction" just don't seem to inspire me to want to chow down on HFCS-laden products.   Do the consumers know if the HFCS they are eating has a "very high fructose content"?  No.  HFCS is HFCS.  Whether you, as the consumer, are getting HFCS-42 or HFCS-55 of HFCS-90 or whatever, you will simply not be able to discern.

Oh, and then there's the cover image (above).  Yummmmmmmm.....

Remember: according to Audrae Erickson, it's all natural.  She can prove it too: the FDA says so.  HFCS is regarded by the FDA as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).  Maybe I am just being picky, but "generally" doesn't inspire me with confidence...  Maybe I need to research this a bit more and do another post on GRAS as a designation....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Just what is HFCS?

1.  High Fructose Corn Syrup
N. A sweetener created by repeatedly processing corn starch into strange molecules. Difficult to digest and burn off. Is widely believed to be a lead contributer to America's obesity epidemic.
Everything at McDonalds except the coffee contains High Fructose Corn Syrup.
by Mr. Aaron Oct 3, 2005 
2.  High Fructose Corn Syrup
The result of cost-cutting by food companies, soda companies, and fast food joints. This is not real sugar, but actually a sweetener that has been produced from corn.

Real sugar is more expensive than High Fructose Corn Syrup, and so that's why almost all soft drinks contain HFCS instead of real sugar.

And High Fructose Corn Syrup is more unhealthy for you than real sugar, and too much of it is a cause of obesity.

So when you're buying drinks that are supposed to be made out of real fruit juice from the stores, look at the ingredients. If you see High Fructose Corn Syrup, you'd be better off avoiding that product. Same goes for all other food products. You'd be amazed at the number of products with high fructose corn syrup. Look up the ingredients of all the McDonald's food and you'll be shocked by how much of it these people use in their food.
Bill: "Dude, I'm getting addicted to Pepsi. I just love this stuff. I've been drinking it at least once a day."

Suzy: "You're slowly killing yourself, pal. That stuff is just full of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Driking that every day is definitely not a good idea. I had a friend who did that and she got a nasty kidney stone, and was warned she might get diabetes. If you're drinking it every other day or something, and you're doing some exercise, it's not so bad. But every day, plus you always sit on your ass in front of the tube, uhuh, bad idea dude."

Bill: "thanks for the heads-up. I'll try to cut down on the bubbly stuff."
by Adel7 Aug 31, 2007
And the Urban Dictionary entries for HFCS:

1.  HFCS
High Fructose Corn Syrup - a sugar substitute often used in soft drinks, candy bars, and other sweetened food products.
One of the ingredients in Dave's cola was HFCS.
by Wiseman Jul 10, 2006
1. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS is a refined sweetener made of corn. It causes a nerve ending in your brain to not detect when your stomach is full, which will lead to overeating. It also has a 1/3 chance of containing mercury. 
2. "Holy Freaking Cow, Stop!"
HFCS, Dude!!!!
by Trevor York May 7, 2009

I wonder how long it will take for Audrae Erickson to discover these definitions and try to submit a new, corn-friendly, CRA-approved definition?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Misleading consumers...

Can you imagine how upsetting it would be to be a medical doctor quoted by Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, if what you said was taken out of context and twisted into a statement supporting the HFCS cause?  Statements taken out of context, twisted to suit the purpose of the quoter, are by no means uncommon.  The context for a given statement is an important detail often ignored by a whole range of folks: sloppy students, seedy journalists, desperate lobbyists, blood-sucking lawyers, political candidates whose platforms are weak, etc.

The interesting thing about catching someone engaging in this practice (taking quotes out of context to suit their purpose) is that it discredits them and may make you question their integrity (if they had any); what credibility does someone have when they have been caught willfully engaging in this practice?  Do you need to check ALL of their footnotes?  Does this make their arguments seem even weaker, more baseless, downright desperate?

Why, yes.  Yes, it does.

The below example comes from

Audrae Erickson on 29/01/2010 13:09:31 
High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of corn sugar. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled the same by the body.

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.

Robert H. Lustig, M.D., Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco said, “The difference between high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, molecule for molecule or ounce for ounce, isn't worth discussing.” (Tucker J, Allday E. January 20, 2010. “Schools switch sugars in chocolate milk.” San Francisco Chronicle.
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.”

The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.”

As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

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

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association
Robert Lustig, M.D. on 06/02/2010 16:35:34

Ms. Erickson is being disingenuous in her posting related to my comments, by leaving off the second sentence. Please go to the SFGATE website to see for yourself. The actual quote is "The difference between high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, molecule for molecule or ounce for ounce, isn't worth discussing. They are both equally dangerous," Lustig said.

Monday, June 7, 2010

ADM's harvest: nothing new

Sadly, the reaction we're seeing now resulting from the "souring" U.S. sales of High Fructose Corn Syrup is a repeat performance.  As a CATO publication from 1995 shows, the corporate/lobbyist advertising campaigns rife with corny patriotism, the large-scale grain export and development of overseas markets, and government silence due to their complicity in the form of subsidies and tariffs, is truly nothing new.  The full report is certainly worth reading; below are some particularly relevant excerpts (along with some recent photos and comments from me.) Please note: all quotes below are from the 1995 CATO report by James Bovard.

Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare

by James Bovard, Cato Policy Analysis No. 241, September 26, 1995
The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation (ADM) has been the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history. ADM and its chairman Dwayne Andreas have lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return have reaped billion-dollar windfalls from taxpayers and consumers. Thanks to federal protection of the domestic sugar industry, ethanol subsidies, subsidized grain exports, and various other programs, ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM's annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM's corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30 
Yes, that's right, in 1995 dollars, for every $1 of profits earned by ADM's "corn sweetener operation," U.S consumers paid $10.
Although much has been written lately on ADM and its harvest of taxpayer dollars, the full scope of its parasitic relationship with the U.S. taxpayer has rarely been closely examined. This study provides that detailed examination as well as an insight into the political dynamics that encourage corporate leaders to profit, not by pleasing consumers, but by pleasing politicians. The study also examines the three main arenas for ADM's corporate rent seeking: the ethanol program, the sugar program, and subsidized grain exports.
The ethanol program: still ongoing
The sugar program: in other words, HFCS
Subsidized grain exports: in 1995 they were talking about the former Soviet Union; now i guess it would be Mexico-whether they like it or not, and China.

AP photo/Seth Perlman, date: July 2, 2009. ADM rail cars that will transport refined corn products, Decatur, Ill.
Andreas recently told a reporter for Mother Jones, "There isn't one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country."
This past May ADM ran in major newspapers a full-page, full-color ad showing a corn cob decorated with the American flag with a picture of President John F. Kennedy along with Kennedy's most famous slogan, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." The advertisement is the ultimate Orwellian agit-prop exercise, the true message being, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for ADM." Such misleading "public service" ad campaigns are the staple of ADM's public relations operation, providing the thin cover necessary to plunder the public till.

This Corn Farmers ad features Kurt and Heather Hora and their daughters.

America's Costs vs. ADM's Profits
Prudential Securities analyst John McMillin estimated that ADM's $746 million in profits in fiscal year 1995 (ending June 30) was derived as follows:
  • corn sweeteners, 39 percent (or $290,940,000),
  • total oilseed, 25 percent,
  • flour milling, 12 percent,
  • biochemicals, 5 percent,
  • ethanol, 4 percent (or $29,840,000), and
  • other, 15 percent.(136)
At least 43 percent of ADM's annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the U.S. government--"at least," because the substantial gain derived by ADM from various domestic crop support programs and export subsidies is virtually impossible to quantify.
ADM's lobbying and campaign contributions may have saved the federal sugar program from being abolished by Congress. Because the current sugar trade barriers and price supports cost consumers roughly $3 billion a year, consumers paid $10 in higher prices for each dollar of profit that ADM reaped from corn sweeteners.

China imports corn as expectations grow of a lower domestic harvest.

Sweet Corn

Olathe Sweet Corn Festival - Eating a total of 19 ears of corn in a seven-minute period, Dan "Tiny" Parker won the men's corn eating contest at the 15th annual Olathe Sweet Corn Festival in Olathe, Colo. "I had lost the last two years (in the corn eating contest) but, they still treat me like a champion", he said.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

China: a new major player in the HFCS scene

The sweet taste of danger in eating

Monday, March 1, 2010
By Andy Ho, The Straits Times/Asia News Network

SINGAPORE -- Fructose is now suspected of being a main cause of obesity in ways table sugar cannot be... You don't feel full after consuming food sweetened with fructose in the same way you would if you consumed glucose. This leads you to eat even more.

Sugar prices have risen to a 29-year high in Asia, where demand is skyrocketing. After all, India is the world's largest consumer of sugar with China following immediately behind.

It does seem, however, a tad odd that the United States is not numero uno in this regard. After all, a third of its adult population is obese, according to the National Centre for Health. Also, nine million U.S. children aged above six are obese, according to the Institute of Medicine.

One reason might be that U.S. sugar prices are twice the world's average, because of longstanding sugar quotas. Hence, U.S. food manufacturers have resorted to a substitute called high fructose corn syrup. It helps that the corn used to make this substitute sweetener is heavily subsidized by the federal government.

Because U.S. farm policy has been directed towards the overproduction of commodity crops used primarily in industry and as animal feed, crops like corn and soy beans are priced artificially low. By contrast, fresh produce receives much less government support and is consequently priced relatively higher.

Thus, while U.S. prices of sugar substitutes and vegetable oils have declined in the last two decades, those of fresh fruits and vegetables have risen 40 percent in the same period. These imbalances have obvious impacts on the eating habits - and health - of U.S. residents.

Buoyed by sugar quotas on the one hand and corn subsidies on the other, high fructose corn syrup introduced into the U.S. diet in the 1970s has become a big money spinner. Today, it accounts for more than half of the U.S. 'natural' sweetener market. It is used mainly in soft drinks but also in juices, cereals, pastries, salad dressings, condiments, jams, ice cream and tinned fruit.

According to The World Sugar Market, how to make sweeteners from starch industrially was already known in the 19th century. But production of such sweeteners trebled only from the early 1970s when sugar prices surged. The book, written by economists at the London-based International Sugar Organization, notes that Americans consume 30 percent more fructose now than they did in the early 1970s and triple more than they did a century ago. Coincidentally perhaps, 100 years ago, only 5 percent of Americans were obese.

Fructose is now suspected of being a main cause of obesity in ways table sugar cannot be. In The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat And Sick, Dr Richard Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, writes about the mounting evidence for this claim.

Of course, overeating and under-exercising matter a lot, but Dr Johnson stresses that people are consuming too much fructose per se. The problem is not just calories as such. Instead, fructose also confuses the hormonal systems that signal hunger and satiety.

Basically, the simplest sugar called glucose, when digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, dampens the hunger hormone (ghrelin) while also stimulating the satiety hormone (leptin). In this way, glucose in your food makes you feel full.

By contrast, fructose not only has no impact on ghrelin, but also interrupts leptin. So you don't feel full after consuming food sweetened with fructose in the same way you would if you consumed glucose. This then leads you to eat even more.

In addition, the more fructose you consume over time, the more sensitized to it your system becomes. This means that habitual consumption of fructose sees your body over-responding to it, so you feel even less satiated, which leads to even greater overeating and thus obesity.

Dr Johnson's own published studies show that fructose tends to lead to raised blood pressure and elevated blood levels of uric acid, fats and sugar. Habitual consumers are more likely to develop obesity, hypertension and diabetes as well.

Moreover, fructose is metabolized differently from glucose. While glucose, the simplest sugar, can be used by every cell in the body as an energy source, fructose -- a far more complex sugar -- has to be broken down by the liver first.

While the liver processes only 20 percent of all glucose consumed, the organ has to process all fructose ingested. This metabolic process in the liver leads to many waste products - not only uric acid, but also bad cholesterol as well as free fatty acids.

The free fatty acids then become converted into triglycerides, which are stored in the liver as fat. Thus, over-consumption of fructose also predisposes one to fatty liver, which can end up scarred, leading to even liver failure.

U.S. residents should be very concerned, especially about their soft drinks, what with 75 percent of all fructose produced being used in their sodas.

According to The World Sugar Market, fructose dominates only in the U.S. and Japan because of the "favorable pricing policies and attractive tax structures" in these countries. Set-up production costs are so high that fructose is unlikely to replace sugar elsewhere. That is, unless the government steps in, as it has in Taiwan and South Korea.

In China, because Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola have gone into the market in a huge way, they have set up plants to make fructose for their own use there. Elsewhere in Asia, however, sugar is still largely the sweetener used in soft drinks.

In the European Union (EU), very onerous fructose quotas mean that it has remained a bit player. The EU accounts for just 3 percent of the world's fructose consumption. On health grounds alone, we should emulate the Europeans.


So, I came across this article because I was trying to understand the emergence of China as a major producer of HFCS.  Based on this article, it would appear that China's emergence in this market is due (at least in part) to "skyrocketing" sugar prices and the presence of Coke and Pepsi plants.  Although I know from other import/export sites that the HFCS manufacturers in China DO export, this article suggests that at least the majority of Chinese HFCS is domestically consumed.

Some interesting facts/statements contained in this article:

75% of the world's HFCS is consumed by the U.S (in large part due to subsidies and tariffs)
3% of the world's HFCS is consumed in the EU (again, apparently at least in part due to quotas.)

Government involvement (i.e. subsidies/tariffs/quotas) seems to determine where HFCS dominates.  In the absence of subsidies/tariffs/quotas, it would appear that HFCS doesn't really emerge in any major way, at least in part due to the high costs associated with setting up the manufacturing plants and facilities.  So, domestically manufactured products are unlikely to contain HFCS, which leaves only imported goods, which will be affected by quotas and tariffs, etc.

The final sentence of this China Post, a Taiwanese newspaper, article is noteworthy:
On health grounds alone, we should emulate the Europeans.