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.