Filed Under: Food Police Food Scares

Hysteria, The Devil’s Appetizer

Lunchtime at the Chicago Tribune must be a frightening thing. We’ve told you already about the baseless mercury-in-fish hype perpetrated by Tribune reporters Michael Hawthorne and Sam Roe, as well as the hysterical Tribune op-ed calling on the U.S. Surgeon General to mandate immediate portion control in restaurants nationwide. Now reporter Julie Deardorff has hopped on the fearful bandwagon with a post on her Tribune blog blasting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as "the Devil’s candy." Deardorff goes on to lament the inclusion of HFCS in children’s products (including cold and cough medicine, applesauce, and yogurt), saying it’s "no wonder our children crave sugar." At the risk of stating the obvious, which of these is more likely: children like sweet things because of HFCS, or children like HFCS because they like sweet things?
Just this Sunday, The New York Times had this to report about HFCS: "Many scientists say that there is little data to back up the demonization of high-fructose corn syrup." Even some of the most obnoxious food cops have largely exonerated HFCS. Walter Willett, no stranger to food scaremongering himself, told the Times: "There’s no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity … If there was no high-fructose corn syrup, I don’t think we would see a change in anything important." Top food cop Michael Jacobson chimed in as well, telling the Times that "he never supported the notion that high-fructose corn syrup was a unique contributor to obesity."
Even the originator of much of the HFCS hype is downplaying the scare. Barry Popkin, co-author of a widely derided study purporting to connect HFCS with obesity, backed off from his earlier claims, saying: "It was a theory meant to spur science, but it’s quite possible that it may be found out not to be true … I don’t think there should be a perception that high-fructose corn syrup has caused obesity until we know more."

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