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Big Food's Sugar Wars

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Including everything you need to know to protect your health in the crossfire. Action Alert!

For years, the Corn Refiner's Association (CRA), which represents companies that process and sell high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, and the Sugar Association have been in a cutthroat competition.

In 2010, CRA asked the FDA permission to rebrand HFCS as "corn sugar" in an attempt to rehabilitate HFCS's negative image-that is, to trick consumers into thinking HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to processed sugar or even natural sugars. In 2011, the Sugar Association sued CRA for its "misleading campaign." In 2012, CRA sued right back for "smearing" HFCS.

It's difficult to decide whose "spin" is more absurd. For example, a Sugar Association webpage entitled "A Balanced Diet" includes a picture of an "ideal" grocery bag filled with fruits, vegetables-and Fig Newtons. This page also that argues that sugar is an "essential" part of a healthful diet:

The simple, irrefutable fact is this: Sugar is a healthy part of a diet. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are the preferred sources of the body's fuel for brain power, muscle energy and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell. Sugar is more than a "fun" food ingredient, it's an essential one as well. Because it's all-natural, you can consume it with confidence.

Meanwhile, and as court documents reveal, CRA didn't even believe its own "sweet surprise" media campaign. For example, one HFCS spokesman said in an email with the subject line "Marketing Ploy," "I think it provides a point to ridicule the [sweet surprise] ads and the industry comes off as being disingenuous." The same spokesman later referred to calling HFCS corn sugar "dishonest and sneaky."

A favorite tactic of Big Business has always been to create industry-funded front groups with innocent sounding names (a classic is "Americans for Medical Progress," a Pfizer-funded "nonprofit" that targets animal rights groups). These sham nonprofits produce "reports" that parrot whatever message industry wants to deliver, which are then echoed over and over again by the mainstream media.   


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