New ad campaign to tackle ‘viral urban myths’ about HFCS

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fructose corn syrup, Sugar, High-fructose corn syrup, Corn refiners association

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) has launched a new advertising campaign in an effort to dispel consumer misconceptions about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Fears about HFCS were raised in 2004, when an article was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ​hypothesizing that the sweetener could be linked to rising rates of obesity. One of the article’s authors Dr Barry Popkin has since said that he was wrong to pinpoint HFCS as obesity’s major cause, but consumer concern has continued nonetheless.

CCF’s new advertising campaign includes full-page newspaper ads and a television commercial featuring a police line-up of an ear of corn, a honey bear, and a sugar cube. A man is asked to identify which of the three is responsible for his weight gain, and is told that corn is not uniquely responsible as all three sweeteners are handled in the same way by the body.

Senior research analyst at CCF Justin Wilson told “We realized that we are at a tipping point when we see companies like Starbucks stabbing the rest of the food industry in the back and saying that a bear claw with sugar is healthier than one with high fructose corn syrup. It’s a marketing gimmick because there’s no difference between these two products.”

Calorie distracter

He described the idea that HFCS is a more highly processed, less healthy ingredient than sugar as “a viral urban myth”​ and, as food companies have started to respond by removing HFCS from their products, CCF felt that it was time to act.

“Consumers are going to have to pay more, and it becomes a calorie distracter,” ​said Wilson. “A sugar is a sugar and a calorie is a calorie. Period.”

He added: “It’s very hard to stop urban myths. We are trying to give some legs to the hard science.”

Focusing on the idea that HFCS is more processed than sugar, the organization points out that “sugar cubes don’t grow on trees. There’s a world of processing required to turn a beet growing in the ground, or a sugar cane stalk, into the granulated sugar that you put in coffee.”

The CCF campaign is separate from that of the Corn Refiners Association, although its president Audrae Erickson has welcomed the move.

She said: “It is refreshing to see the food industry defend high fructose corn syrup and put to rest the misinformation about this ingredient…High fructose corn syrup is a natural ingredient. It is equally as sweet as sugar, has the same number of calories, and is handled the same by the body. It is time for the science-based facts to be shared with consumers.”

CCF is a non-profit organization funded by food and beverage companies, restaurants, and individuals.

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