Too, too sweet
Two sweet stories that broke in the last couple of days should be read together, in order for a reader to receive their full nutritional value.
First, the Food and Drug Administration told processed foodstuff manufacturers they must continue to refer to a commonly used sweetener as "high fructose corn syrup" on their required lists of ingredients. The FDA rejected a petition from the manufacturers of massive quantities of the stuff that they be allowed to change its name to the more benign-sounding "corn sugar."
Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that the city ban the sale of high-sugar which usually means high-high fructose corn syrup drinks of more than 16 ounces by restaurants, ball parks, theaters, street vendors, etc. Hizzoner notes that, now that he has managed to ban smoking from most public places in the city, the biggest threat to public health, and the biggest driver of government costs for health care, is obesity.
Bloomberg's proposal is just a little over the top. But the FDA ruling was the correct one, and just for the concerns that motivate the mayor.
The skyrocketing rate of obesity in the United States does parallel the increasing use of HFCS as a substitute for sugar in American-made soft drinks and other processed foods. And some, understandably, argue cause and effect.
Some others, including independent watchdogs such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, accept the argument of the corn refiners that HFCS isn't that much different from sugar, at least in terms of how it is processed by the body. But consumer groups still hailed the FDA decision on the grounds that Americans ingest way too much of both substances, and anything that keeps consumers wary about what's in their food is a good thing.
A couple of points about HFCS that justify the FDA's ruling, and the wariness that some consumers have of the product. Because HFCS is cheaper than sugar, and because it is a syrup that is more easily mixed into just about anything, it has found its way not only into things we think of as sweet, like soda and ice cream, but also into many items we don't think of as sugary, such as bread and condiments. Thus it wheedles its way into more bodies, spiking blood-sugar levels and setting off cravings for more sweetness.
Forcing HFCS to retain its artificial-sounding, polysyllabic moniker should help consumers be aware that sweetness in our diets is something we get too much of, and that, with or without the assistance of New York City's Health Department, is something we should change.