The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has been running ads on prime time TV in which one mother begins to chide another about serving a fruit drink with corn syrup and the other mother rattles off a few confident assertions that the drink is natural and that corn syrup is a natural product made from natural corn. The other mother stands corrected and takes a swig. The ad ends with a call-to-action to find out more by going to sweetsurprise.com. The CRA is not mentioned in the narration although I’m sure a teeny-tiny version of its logo is somewhere on the ad.
When I saw the commercial I mistakenly thought that whoever sponsored it was telling another big lie by trying to make us believe that sweetened drinks have attributes of organic or health foods, when in fact, they provide little nutrition and lots of empty calories.
I hate big lies so I was angry.
That is, until I got to the website. Now I’m just amused.
The CRA is not trying to say that corn syrup is an organic or healthy food; merely that corn syrup was as natural, tasty and nutritional as cane sugar. And of course it is, which is about like saying the 2009 Detroit Lions played football as well as the 2009 Kansas City Chiefs did.
It was at that point that I remembered that many makers of processed food products were touting cane sugar as a natural ingredient which is to lay claim to be healthier for you. In fact, a number of products have changed their formulations and replaced other sweeteners with cane sugar and advanced the claim that they were now a “natural product.”
Of course saying that using cane sugar makes a product healthier is a lot like touting that the low fat content of a processed food is good for dieting, even though the only factor that figures into weight loss is calorie consumption (if you ate only fat but limited yourself to 1,500 calories a day of it, you would likely drop a few pounds a week).
The broader issue goes beyond cane sugar and corn syrup. Both are always bad in beverages, and the processed food which contains either or both is typically not as good for you as making something from scratch, or eating something that has not been processed. Experts and studies often list processed food and calorie-laden drinks as two of the causes of the obesity challenge we currently face in the U.S. and much of Europe.
So in this case, the pot is telling the truth when it says that it’s as black as the kettle.