Sometimes, I’d rather not be right.
Years ago, I wrote a blog entry about how manipulatively renaming detrimental ingredients can trick consumers into eating things they don’t want. I was thinking about the term “organic evaporated cane juice” and how it’s simply a way to encourage people to eat sugar who might otherwise hesitate.
I suggested that, while we’re at it, why not rename high fructose corn syrup something like fructose-infused zea mays nectar? Make softly lit ads with kittens and puppies getting along?
A few months later, the Corn Refiners Association began their infamous Sweet Surprise campaign, and I thought my prediction had come true. No kittens and puppies, but pictures of (healthy, happy, multiracial) children getting along while eating popsicles.
Now, they’ve taken my original advice. The CRA has petitioned the FDA to get “corn sugar” approved as the new term. (Was fructose-infused zea mays nectar to long? Sorry about that!).
No sugar is good for you, although I choose to have a little now and then for the sake of occasional baked goods. But HFCS is extra bad. It plays a role in obesity, sure, but it seems specifically to induce symptoms of metabolic syndrom (fatty liver, insulin resistance, hypertension, heart disease…) even without obesity.
This is pretty insidious. The only reason to make the change is that people are making specific, conscious choices not to eat the stuff. A name change will trick people into eating what they don’t want.
That kind of manipulation is responsible for a whole lot of unhealthy eating in this country. I was listening to a call-in show on NPR not too long ago, hearing some guy rant about how insurance shouldn’t cover anything to do with metabolic disease and obesity because people “make bad choices.” That kind of attitude is maddening in a world where these sorts of marketing manipulations happen all the time.
The name change is creepy. But on the other hand, maybe people are catching on to the constant swapping of names and hiding of ingredients. Since all sugar has detrimental metabolic effects, wouldn’t it be nice if any kind of sugar on the label made people hesitate as long as “high fructose corn syrup” tends to? But then, manufacturers would probably just switch the name to something else.
I’m glad the label isn’t going to change on the tomatoes, beef, plums, beans, etc I buy at the market. It’s harder to pull the wool over your eyes when you cook from simple ingredients. But marketing is very difficult to resist, as are time-saving foods. I may not like packaged foods, but people do choose to eat them (or feel it’s their only choice). And as long as people eat them, it’s important to advocate for accurate, non-manipulative labeling and marketing.