Sugary corn industry leader sets us straight about high fructose goodness

In swift response to half of a phrase buried in a sentence in the brief item that was part of this post, the president of the Corn Refiners Association begs to differ.

The other day, we noted Boulder Valley schools are considering adopting a new “wellness policy” that would discourage cupcakes on birthdays and replace chicken nuggets with roast chicken on lunch menus. We also quoted Beth Cooper, the nutrition services director for the school district, who told the school board, “We’re eliminating trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.”

Au contraire, writes Audrae Erickson, president of the nearly 100-year-old trade group representing agrigiants Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill Inc., Corn Products Intl., and National Starch, among others. Here’s the e-mail that arrived in our in-box this morning, minus only a phone number and the original article as presented by some clipping service:

Dear Mr. Luning:

We read the June 24 Early Bird Special brief on the proposed Boulder Valley School District wellness policy that would ban high fructose corn syrup with interest. There is a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles.

High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of corn sugar. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body. There is no nutritional benefit gained by replacing high fructose corn syrup with another caloric sweetener.

Eliminating high fructose corn syrup from school nutrition programs would significantly increase school breakfast and lunch costs and seriously jeopardize and/or eliminate the supply of numerous offerings.

High fructose corn syrup helps maintain high quality, low cost, reliable food products used in breakfast and lunch offerings for America’s school children. It is a natural sweetener that keeps food fresh (canned fruits, ketchup, cheese spreads), enhances fruit and spice flavors (yogurts, flavored milks, jams, jellies, maple syrups, canned fruits, marinades, spaghetti sauce), improves flavor by reducing tartness (spaghetti sauce, ketchup, canned tomatoes), and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed (salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard, other condiments).

The American Medical Association recently concluded that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” (American Medical Association. June 17, 2008. Press Release: AMA finds high fructose syrup unlikely to be more harmful to health than other caloric sweeteners

The American Dietetic Association concluded that “No persuasive evidence supports the claim that high fructose corn syrup is a unique contributor to obesity.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.

To read the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration,

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association
Washington, DC

Erickson sent a whole other e-mail, filled with all sorts of different points and references, to the Boulder Daily Camera in response to a 2007 piece that claimed high fructose corn syrup metabolizes differently than other sugars and is a “unique contributor to obesity and diabetes.”

Lots of people are fat in “Australia, Mexico and Europe,” all places without America’s subsidized corn sweetener industry, Erickson pointed out. She also dismissed a recent Rutgers study the Camera cited that warned high fructose corn-sweetened beverages had “high levels of reactive compounds called carbonyls,” which are “not found in sugar [and] could trigger cell and tissue damage that could cause diabetes.” Those findings, Erickson wrote, “appear to diverge from a considerable body of published scientific research finding HFCS both safe and no different from other common sweeteners like sugar and honey.”

Erickson also went after Starbucks earlier this month when the coffee chain announced it was removing high fructose corn syrup from bakery items as part of a “Real Food. Simply Delicious” campaign.

“Consumers could be in for a jolt when they realize that there is no scientific basis to suggest that coffee cake made with sugar is ‘healthier’ than one made with high fructose corn syrup,” Erickson said in a statement. “There is no nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar. It is the calories that count.”

Corn sweetener defenders might have to go into high gear as the acclaimed documentary “Food, Inc.”, basically an hour and a half indictment of industrial food production, goes into wide release this month.

So far, we haven’t heard a peep from the trans fat lobby.

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