Clearing up the high fructose corn syrup myths appears to be the new rage. Last week USA Today took a crack at denouncing the high-fructose fearmongering. And yesterday CBS News thoroughly took to task the claim that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally different from table sugar. We were pleased to see that even notorious hype makers were calling shenanigans:
The food police – the ones who told us Chinese food and theatre popcorn were bad – would also be yelling about high-fructose corn syrup. But instead, they say the controversy is all hype.
"The evilness of high-fructose corn syrup has become an urban myth," said Michael Jacobson with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Jacobson blames the high-fructose corn syrup controversy on a 2004 study that seemed to link soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup to the obesity epidemic.
"They didn't have one shred of evidence to back up their theory," Jacobson said. "And they eventually recanted and they realized that HFCS and sugar are essentially the same. But they couldn't put the genie back into the bottle."
The 2004 study Jacobson refers to was co-authored by UNC professor Barry Popkin, who in 2008 backtracked in a follow-up paper that found high fructose corn syrup is not uniquely responsible for obesity. “We were wrong in our speculations on high fructose corn syrup,” Popkin confessed in September. And alongside Jacobson in calling for a tone-down of the scaremongering was the oft-hysterical Marion Nestle, who told CBS News that high fructose corn syrup is “just sugar.”
CBS News noted one person's concern that high fructose corn syrup "sounds like a chemical." Despite the scientific-sounding name, however, the process for making it is comparable to that for cane sugar. (Check out our videos of how high fructose corn syrup is made and how cane sugar is produced.)
It's worth noting that some of the “food police” interviewed by CBS News still have an anti-sugar agenda (whether it’s table sugar or high fructose corn syrup). Former FDA chief David Kessler has dumpster-dived in his quest to prove that sugary foods are “addictive.” And Eric Schlosser co-produced the anti-modern agriculture hit film “Food, Inc.” But when even Michael Jacobson—a man who makes a living issuing doomsday proclamations about fettuccine alfredo and nachos—says that certain criticisms of high fructose corn syrup are hyperbole, that’s saying something.