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High Fructose Corn Syrup industry wins WTO ruling
May 24, 2006 2:15 AM   Subscribe

A WTO victory came last week for the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) industry. HFCS is that controversial stuff that seemingly permeates everything in American consumer foods, from Gatorade to cough drops. Mexico had slapped tariffs on HFCS dumping in 1998 but agreed to revoke them in 2007, a move that will expand HFCS outside what is almost exclusively a U.S. market. The industry is quite firm that HFCS is safe, but there are some naysayers.
posted by rolypolyman (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
After reading the naysayer link, I followed the advice and had a read of some food labels. I'm finding a few that list sugar, then further down, corn syrup. Would "corn syrup" be short for HFCS, or are they different substances?

Can you tell I don't know much about diet? :)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:35 AM on May 24, 2006


They're different things. Corn Syrup is a natural extract of the sugars found in corn. There's some heating and squeezing and stuff to get it out, but no chemical changes applied to the product. HFCS is created through a chemical process roughly analogous to the creation of hydrogenated vegetable oils (which are far worse for you than the naturally occurring fats they come from).

Check out The Accidental Hedonist for FMTYEWTKA HFCS, lists of foods it appears in, etc. I'm not rabid about avoiding it, but I have been reading labels lately, and I think my choice would be to avoid it or starve.


posted by phrits at 3:41 AM on May 24, 2006


Even if it wouldn't be worse than regular sugar or honey, it would still suck.

(Yes, there is nothing healthy about honey. It's just bee produced fructose and glucose.)
posted by vertriebskonzept at 4:24 AM on May 24, 2006


Health issues aside, corn syrup just doesn't taste as good as cane sugar. It's too pure and cloying. But then again, at least it's better than that wretched sucralose stuff they seem to be putting in everything these days. That stuff is narsty.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:30 AM on May 24, 2006


I've found out that people who consume HFCS increase their triglycerides 32 percent relative to people who use mostly sugar. Elevated triglycerides is a precursor to elevated cholesterol. This is not speculation. This is according to University of Minnesota professor John Bantle. The body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup differently than sugar. It blunts the body's ability to recognize when it is full and increases a person's appetite. The more of it you consume the more you want to consume. Sort of like an addictive drug, eh? A killer on the cob, indeed.

High Fructose Corn Syrup puts people at risk for metabolic syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions — increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — contributes to your risk of serious disease. In combination, your risk is even greater." HFCS can contribute to increased blood pressure, type2-diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat particularly around the waist. And, unless you're very careful, your foods will be full of HFCS.

People in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of the world don't have to go out of their way to avoid HFCS. Their processed food products contain very little, if any, HCFS. I wonder why?

You might ask why are we, the people of the United States of America, being bombarded with foods that contain HFCS? It's easy. Money. HFCS is cheaper than sugar, although artificially so. Remember we're the land of "amber waves of grain". We have lots of corn. The tariffs on sugar being held artificially high protects HFCS processors like Archer Midland Daniels. It keeps the price of sugar artificially high while the price of HFCS is kept artificially low by government subsidies. That's why we're being overwhelmed with HFCS is almost many of the processed foods we consume.

We're pawns in the corporate profit game. Our livers, hearts, and bodies suffer to ensure the profits of corn processors like AMD and big food manufacturers. We're the victims of the killer on the cob. Food manufacturers are filling our bodies with an artificially engineered sweet substance that is causing an epidemic of health problems for those of us living in the United States. What's good for business is good for America. So they say.

The corn producers of course argue that HFCS is just another form of sugar. That's like saying Bird Flu is just another form of flu. HFCS is not handled by the human body like sucrose or glucose. HFCS is metabolized by the liver and does not trigger the insulin reaction that table sugar does. So, when you consume HFCS your body doesn't get the "full" feeling it gets when you eat foods containing regular sugar. So you can eat more and feel full less - which, for one thing, is a good way to get fat quicker.


Killer on the cob.
posted by sic at 4:31 AM on May 24, 2006


The new Michael Pollan book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, has a big section all about corn, and he devotes a fair bit of attention and explanation to HFCS.

I'm still reading it but I think it's a great book. Be warned, though, you may not shop the same way after you start reading it. I know that I can no longer say I didn't know certain particular horrid truths about the way food is produced in America, so my main excuse for not buying healthier is now gone.

And I found grass-fed beef at the farmer's market that's only a tiny tiny amount more expensive than the stuff at the supermarket (that stands in its own shit for months on end, fed on a diet its body was never meant to handle (cheap corn etc), pumped full of antibiotics...). Anyway, you get the idea. I'll shut up now.
posted by beth at 4:50 AM on May 24, 2006


Me and My wife stopped eating all HFCS a few years back (and made an effort to remove most/all hydrogenated oils)

I find that now, i definitely get a weird hangover and headache if I binge on any hcfs sweetened items.

I definitely feel better though.

Plus sugar sweetened things taste way better :)
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:32 AM on May 24, 2006


I say nay.
posted by jaronson at 5:37 AM on May 24, 2006


The body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup differently than sugar. It blunts the body's ability to recognize when it is full and increases a person's appetite. The more of it you consume the more you want to consume. Sort of like an addictive drug, eh?

AFAIK nicote (contained in tobacco) generates an initial unbalance in dopamine levels in the brain (chemicalfites may know better so one gets a dopamine high when smoking the first cig, then dopamine falls back to normal level, you need more cig to get dopamine high. Brain gets used to dopamine high and considers your normal dopamine level as a dopamine low (unhappy brain :-( and suggest more smoking.

But if HFCS blunts the ability to recognize "too full to eat more" we may eat a lot more then before to feel full.


1. Sell food with HFCS
2. Brain says "I'm still hungry"
3. Buy more !
4. ???
5. Blame people "it's your personal responsability to eat less, you librl assohole ammeruka hater !"
6. Profit !
posted by elpapacito at 6:04 AM on May 24, 2006


... that seemingly permeates everything in American consumer foods, from Gatorade to cough drops.

There's no HFCS in Gatorade.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:00 AM on May 24, 2006


I've been avoiding HFCS lately, too. Everytime I want to buy a soda I start reading the labels and I wonder "WTF? Is cane sugar really that dear?"
posted by mds35 at 7:04 AM on May 24, 2006


Cane sugar was the main dollar export produced by Cuba.

The US started guaranteeing -- propping up -- the price of domestically produced sugar after the last Cuban revolution, forbidding Cuban imports. That made US production of sweeteners interesting, and set off the boom for what became the Archer Daniels Midland corn sweetener business, because as long as the price of sugar is kept high, it's economical to produce corn sweetener.

The raised triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels, which produced the current huge market for the pharmaceutical industry for drugs that might reduce cholesterol, are merely side benefits of our economic boycott of Cuban sugar.

Sugar costs half as much elsewhere in the world.

If you want sugar in your Hershey's chocolate or Coca-Cola, buy the products manufactured in Canada or Mexico. There's a healthy >cough< black market for smuggled sugar-sweetened versions of lots of things.

Why? Because they taste better and are better for you, except politically.
posted by hank at 7:18 AM on May 24, 2006


This is the inherent problem with multi-national corporations. They have to grow and show profit for their shareholders. Selling plain corn syrup is not enough when you've saturated the market. They have to go and invent some chemically altered compound that our body has no idea how to process just because it saves them a couple of pennies a pound but since companies like ADM and Cargill are a virtual cartel they make billions from it. I love when I watch all these "investigative" television programs about the "obesity epidemic" in America. Notice no mainstream program ever points the finger at the producers of HFCS? Maybe because ADM spends millions advertising on the network? We'll never know if that's the case. Throw in the pharmaceutical companies who profit from all the weight loss and diabetic etc medication they foist upon the HFCS addicted public and you have too much business interest in keeping this stuff in circulation. And where business interest goes Congressional interest is soon to follow at the snap of a finger. Change will not come from Congress. It will have to come from the American public's rejection of high fructose corn syrup. Only when it stops being profitable for the corporations that produce it will Congress grow a spine and outlaw it. The only problems is how do you inform the general public about the dangers of HFCS if the mainstream media networks and Congress are on ADM's payroll?
posted by any major dude at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2006


You post it on MeFi, of course.
posted by IronLizard at 7:52 AM on May 24, 2006


Here are some interesting peer-reviewed articles about HFCS: 1, 2.
One interesting tidbit of information is that using apple juice as a sweetener has some of the same problems as using HFCS - 65% of the calories in apple juice come from fructose.
posted by pombe at 7:54 AM on May 24, 2006


monju_bosatsu wrote:
There's no HFCS in Gatorade.
Are you sure? I tried going to the gatorade site, but it's not easy to find an ingredients list. It's almost like they're trying to hide what they put inside their "sports drink". If anyone's actually looked at a bottle, let me know what the sweetener is.
posted by Crash at 8:03 AM on May 24, 2006


Video from the recent governors meeting including Clinton's remarks about high-fructose corn syrup.

"Haunted, by the sight of a young woman in a wheelchair, "who couldn't have been a day over 35," whom he had met in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, her leg amputated because of diabetes. "If we don't do something about it, we're going to have a terrible, terrible problem.""
posted by thisisdrew at 8:07 AM on May 24, 2006


Crash-- Looking at the Gatorade bottle sitting next to me, it has listed for ingrediants: water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural and artificial grape flavors, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, ester gum, blue 1, red 40. (It's the Fierce Grape flavor).

I'm not sure if the sucrose syrup is as doom-tastic as HFCS though.
posted by sperose at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2006


HFCS is nasty stuff and its difficult to get away from it. Difficult but not impossible and that's good. I have really limited my intake and am working to stop it altogether.

I don't have the time right now but I've gotta believe that honey is better for us than HFCS or straight sugar.
posted by fenriq at 8:30 AM on May 24, 2006


This is the inherent problem with multi-national corporations.

Nice. The US government continually and unapologetically perverts, distorts, and fucks with the cane and corn markets, and you point fingers at ADM. The only party in the whole mess that is acting irrationally is the state, and the asshats who vote for its leaders.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:35 AM on May 24, 2006


HFCS is how the US dumps its excess production. If it wasn't corn it would be soy, or cotton, or whatever.. we'd make something out of it and dump it on the world.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2006


I say nay.

Why, I never!
posted by grubi at 8:47 AM on May 24, 2006


I only learned about HFCS a couple of weeks ago and as part of my general mission to eat more healthily, I've been avoiding it. In Canada it is much easier, it seems, than it is in the US, but there are still a lot of products that contain it, though apparently here it is called "sugar/glucose-fructose" on the label.
posted by synecdoche at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2006


hank: If you want sugar in your Hershey's chocolate or Coca-Cola, buy the products manufactured in Canada or Mexico. There's a healthy >cough< black market for smuggled sugar-sweetened versions of lots of things. /i>

hank, I look at two Hershey's candy products I have in my cupboard, and they both list their sweetener ingredient as 'sugar'. Do you know something I don't? This only caught my eye because I read some article on Hershey in dead tree format that talked about the great expenses they've incurred by continuing to use cane sugar as opposed to corn syrup.

posted by cavalier at 9:23 AM on May 24, 2006


Damn you right facing alligator!!
posted by cavalier at 9:24 AM on May 24, 2006


Nice. The US government continually and unapologetically perverts, distorts, and fucks with the cane and corn markets, and you point fingers at ADM. The only party in the whole mess that is acting irrationally is the state, and the asshats who vote for its leaders.

So then you'd agree we're taking this Cuba thing a little too far?

what's the point of economic sanctions against Cuba in the year 2006?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2006


Kwanstar wrote:

Nice. The US government continually and unapologetically perverts, distorts, and fucks with the cane and corn markets, and you point fingers at ADM. The only party in the whole mess that is acting irrationally is the state, and the asshats who vote for its leaders.

Kwanstar, this is my take on the whole mess. Corporations have allegiance only to shareholders, not to the public, nor the law, nor the environment. They are legally bound by this allegiance. I am not blaming a corporation for pursuing profits, that is the reason they are created. Politicians need money to get elected. Corporations only give money to politicians that will demonstrate quid pro quo, therefore those prospective politicians with scruples and ideas about the greater good tend to get underfunded and tend to stay out of office. The overwhelming majority of US citizens get their media from media companies owned by diversified multi-national corporations that have to balance varied interests - many that offer a conflict of interest with their news gathering capability. For instance GE makes jet engines for the government. Billions of dollars worth of contracts that get decided directly by the Bush administration. The war has been pretty good for business for GE. How come I never hear a disclaimer by any NBC newsperson when they give commentary about the war? Is this the reason why Tim Russert allows Newt Gingrich to repeat the lie that Saddam was in league with Al-Qaeda before the war on his show? Hard to say. How many people in this country know that NBC's parent company is profiting directly from this war? If I'm a GE executive is my allegiance to accurate hard-hitting news or the bottom line? There are numerous other conflicts of interest that are never disclosed. This kind of conflict directly affects how the American public feels about different issues. You can blame the government and the corporations but when it comes down to it the only change that is going to take place is going to be grass roots. Our goverment and media are nothing more than a mouthpiece for massive corporations at this point.
posted by any major dude at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2006


Odd, I went to my cupboard after reading this and there were few items containing HFCS. There was however a good deal of hydrogenated vegetable and some monosodium glutamate. My gut is slowly expanding far out of proportion with the rest of me, regardless.
posted by IronLizard at 9:44 AM on May 24, 2006


You can blame the government and the corporations but when it comes down to it the only change that is going to take place is going to be grass roots. Our goverment and media are nothing more than a mouthpiece for massive corporations at this point.
posted by any major dude at 9:43 AM PST on May 24


The only vote you have is your money and how you spend it.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2006


Every time you hear someone say "Read this book, it will change your life" you can ignore pretty much everything else they say because most of the time they didn't bother reading anything else, or checking to see if the author was an idiot.

It can't be that people are fat because they sit at a desk all day, drive home in a comfy seat, pop in some easy food in the oven, then sit on the couch eating crappy food while they watch American Idol could it?

No. That can't be it. It has to be some big conspiracy about fructose, money, and pharmaceutical companies.

Wanna keep from getting fat? It is easy. Do the physics diet. Carefully keep track of how many calories you burn. Consume an amount of calories equal to or less than what you burn. It really doesn't matter if you are getting your calories from fructose, protein, starch, or the brains of the living as long as you excercize.
posted by urlnotfound at 10:03 AM on May 24, 2006


Naysayers + Dictionary + Look up "NEXUS" = Crazzy Delicious!!
posted by humboldt32 at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2006


Wanna keep from getting fat? It is easy. Do the physics diet. Carefully keep track of how many calories you burn. Consume an amount of calories equal to or less than what you burn. It really doesn't matter if you are getting your calories from fructose, protein, starch, or the brains of the living as long as you excercize.

Sure, if you don't mind being anemic or diabetic or the like...
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2006


urlnotfound:

Who said anything about conspiracy? It's just economics. Do I believe that the food and pharmaceutical industry are having super-secret underground meetings about how they can create food that causes disease and then create a drug that manages said disease - no. Do I believe that once thhat situation takes place they have an interest in keeping that revenue stream flowing? Absolutely. I assume they fund studies very similar to the way the oil industry funded studies on global warming - Find a scintilla of doubt and magnify it tendfold. Is it morally wrong for corporations to do such things? Perhaps, but as I discussed before corporations are not moral entities - their allegiance is to the shareholder and shareholders these days will look the other way as long as the profits hit their mark at the end of the quarter. Whose job is it to look at the big picture?

your attitude is a very republican attitude: If you are too stupid to watch what you eat then you deserve the disease you get from eating bad food. The only problem is that the people who tend to fall into that category are the poor and uneducated. Now why should I give a shit about the poor and uneducated? Because I pay for their healthcare through higher taxes, and higher insurance rates. Contrary to popular belief, we do have national healthcare in this country - when someone defaults on their medical bills the cost just gets spread out throughout the paying public. So just from a pure economic sense I do have a stake in whether or not my neighbor is eating poison or not.
posted by any major dude at 10:41 AM on May 24, 2006


It really doesn't matter if you are getting your calories from fructose, protein, starch, or the brains of the living as long as you excercize.
Maybe not if your only goal is to be thin. Heck, if that's all you care about, a nice heroin addiction will do the trick, regardless of your diet. But if you want to actually be healthy, you might want to take a more informed approach.
posted by Crash at 12:08 PM on May 24, 2006


Why bother to argue with pro-HFCS people or people that refuse to believe it is bad for you? Let them get fat and die. Bring on the Consumer Darwinism!
posted by shoepal at 12:43 PM on May 24, 2006


Blaming HFCS for getting fat is ridiculous. From what I understand you people are claming that HFCS doesn't make us feel as full per calorie as sucrose? That's why it's so bad?

Seems like all you have to do to avoid the side effects is eat moderate amounts of food. There's no reason at all to avoid HFCS, as long as you're eating a healthy diet. And there's still no actual evidence that it is bad for you.

Besides, you know why fruit is sweet? Well they call it fructose for a reason, because it's found in fruits. If you eat a lot of fruit, you'll get a lot of fructose. Yet somehow the fact that that the chemical was once concentrated (and then diluted of course in whatever beverage or sweetened product) makes it bad. Whatever.

Why bother to argue with pro-HFCS people or people that refuse to believe it is bad for you? Let them get fat and die. Bring on the Consumer Darwinism!

Maybe because the more people who are scared of HFCS the easier it will be to find HFCS-free food? I mean duh.

Still, fructose-phobia sounds like the american version of fan death to me.
posted by delmoi at 1:36 PM on May 24, 2006


Maybe not if your only goal is to be thin. Heck, if that's all you care about, a nice heroin addiction will do the trick, regardless of your diet. But if you want to actually be healthy, you might want to take a more informed approach.

But the only thing people are claming is that HFCS messes with your appetite, but if you're counting calories, then HFCS will have no negative effect on you, at least none that's been mentioned here.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on May 24, 2006


(Yes, there is nothing healthy about honey. It's just bee produced fructose and glucose.)

Maybe in your lame-ass country, in my awesome country it has some really interesting anti-bacterial properties, can help with stomach ulcers, and be smeared on cuts & scrapes, and so forth.

Cite: Waikato University Honey Research Unit.
posted by The Monkey at 3:54 PM on May 24, 2006


Besides, you know why fruit is sweet? Well they call it fructose for a reason, because it's found in fruits. If you eat a lot of fruit, you'll get a lot of fructose. Yet somehow the fact that that the chemical was once concentrated (and then diluted of course in whatever beverage or sweetened product) makes it bad. Whatever.

Ask a dietician sometime which is better for you: drinking 300 calories of HFCS diluted in fizzy water, or eating 300 calories of apples.
posted by Foosnark at 3:55 PM on May 24, 2006


I have a vegan friend who is also trying to cut out HFCS from her diet. No refined sugar, no honey, no corn syrup. So far, I have noticed that she has a hell of a time finding non-water beverages to consume when we go out.

She sure eats healthier than I do. I'm a confessed sugar-junkie and just yesterday joked about my goal to go into a diabetic coma by age 25. (I've got three months!)

Of course, eating so many sweets has made me a kind of connisseur - not only can I differentiate Coke from Pepsi, but I can distinguish American from Canadian Coke. I've got to say, the stuff made with real sugar tastes a LOT better.

When I was living in Iceland, they introduced a HFCS Coke as "low-sugar." I tried it and exclaimed "Wow. This is what AMERICAN Coke tastes like." The Icelanders around me scrunched up their faces and asked if our Coke really had such a foul aftertaste. I had to admit that yeah, it does.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:32 PM on May 24, 2006


I aint aten nothing but suger beats for somthin like 12 years and I'm as fit as a fiddle.
posted by I Foody at 4:42 PM on May 24, 2006


When I last heard this argument a few years ago, another rationale mentioned for HFCS's popularity in the US was its ease of distribution versus sugar and other sweeteners. Popularity, I should say, among manufacturers.

Since it can be concentrated and shipped in a ready-to-use form as opposed to a form requiring processing, it reduces the manufacturing cost of many food products, especially beverages.

Do I believe it? Sure, maybe. I definitely wait every year for passover so I can buy the passover-coke with real sugar (I don't know my kosher rules, but apparently the corn syrup is an issue).

It tastes way better, and far far less of it is satisfying (results of totally amateur blind taste test).
posted by abulafa at 8:30 PM on May 24, 2006


Ask a dietician sometime which is better for you: drinking 300 calories of HFCS diluted in fizzy water, or eating 300 calories of apples.

Ask the dietician which is better for you: drinking 300 calories of sucrose diluted in fizzy water, or eating 300 calories of apples.
posted by oats at 8:51 PM on May 24, 2006


I first read about HFCS at MeFi almost four years ago (here; also You Are Fat Because There is Too Much Corn). Michael's Pollan's economic analysis makes a lot of sense to me, as do the health issues involved, and I've been trying to avoid HFCS ever since. It's a) my sole concession to my otherwise terrible diet and b) very difficult to find stuff in the stores that doesn't have it.

People talk about HFCS in soda causing America's huge pile (so to speak) of obese children, but it's everywhere: corn flakes, crackers, bread, ketchup, French fries, and on and on. I've seen salad dressings where it's the main ingredient.

The industry is quite firm that HFCS is safe...

Yeah, as if some industry wouldn't say their products are o.k. Remember, kids! Always trust the people who are trying to sell you something.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:56 PM on May 24, 2006


monju_bosatsu wrote: There's no HFCS in Gatorade.

Crash wrote: Are you sure? I tried going to the gatorade site, but it's not easy to find an ingredients list. It's almost like they're trying to hide what they put inside their "sports drink". If anyone's actually looked at a bottle, let me know what the sweetener is.



Here's the nutritional (HA!) info from a bottle of lemon-lime-strawberry Gatorade.

Lemon-lime + Strawberry

Ingredients: water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural lemon-lime and strawberry flavors with other natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, ester gum, yellow 5, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean and/or cottonseed), blue #1, sontains soy ingredients

Nutrition Facts: serving size: 8fl oz; calories 50; total fat 0g; sodium 110mg; potassium 20mg; total carb 14g; sugars 14g; protein 0g;

From what I've read, glucose sucrose syrup is HFCS 90% of the time. And why the hell does a sports drink need hydrogenated vegetable oil? What's that about?


hank, I look at two Hershey's candy products I have in my cupboard, and they both list their sweetener ingredient as 'sugar'.

Yep. I have a bar of Hershey's Symphony here on the desk, and it says: milk chocolate (sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk...etc.) No corn syrup.
posted by dejah420 at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2006


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