The Politics of Sugar

An interesting email from a reader on HFCS:

I don’t think HFCS [syrups] are threatening solely because of their sweetness. As you explained, they are only “useful to the extent that they can be diluted down to approximate the taste of standard table sugar,” neither is it the fear of one glorious gobstopper that will bring us to our knees, glazed over salivating for more. Why then has it become fashionable to paint HFCS as an evil substance? It has much more to do with its pervasiveness due to pricing. Simply put, it is a cheap way to approximate the taste of sugar, and it is in everything. I would venture to say that products have been created simply because this cheap “sugar” exists.

I’m not knocking corn syrup . There are a lot of wonderful things that are made from it. (I’m partial to pecan pie myself.) However, the sheer volume and variety of HFCS products that I see [kids] stuffing their faces with day in and day out is alarming. They can’t make it through the day without putting a candy bar, soft drink or handful of Skittles into their pudgy faces. If it were only this, a question of teaching moderation, HFCS might fall into the “annoying” category rather than evil. But when you add to it the fact that our government subsidy systems are what make HFCS so pervasive, this is what pushes HFCS into the evil category.

What I like about this is that it highlights what the real issue is underlying the hysteria about HCFS: politics. But more on that in a second. I think it’s important to point out here that regular corn syrup and HFCS aren’t approximating the taste of sugar. They are sugar in every sense that matters — just as real as sugar taken from a cane or a beet, only the fructose and sucrose molecules aren’t bonded to one another as they are in crystalline sucrose.

Concerning corn subsidies, I can see why they’re offensive to a lot of folks. However the fact that corn syrup is made from government-subsidized corn doesn’t make it bad for you physically (hard as some people try to present it that way). That’s the silly part. The issues are conflated for political purposes. But one last thought: if the sugar in candy bars were beet sucrose instead of corn syrup, would it matter one iota to the kids who eat them? I think not.

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