Sunday, October 10, 2010

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

This is a bit off topic from my blogs about car related family fun, car shows, Michael's car art and diabetic friendly sugar free desserts, but it is something we really got talking about in Hershey, PA, when we were there at the Fall Meet this month. And that is High-Fructose Corn Syrup.

It's become such a hot-button topic recently, that there was even a 3-minute "rant" about it during a recent Law & Order episode. During a chat about obesity, especially in minors, one of the characters went all out with information about the sweetener, really drawing attention to the fact that it is a major ingredient in soft drinks. Which is being linked to obesity of all people, but primarily kids.

There's also been some studies that have shown that a rather startling percentage of High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) contains Mercury. Not good. We all learned that Mercury was a poison in grade school. So, we've been diligently checking food packages, paying specific attention to whether HFCS is listed in the ingredients. And, let me tell you, it's alarming.

Barn find at Hershey Fall Meet

That brings me to the car show/swap meet at Hershey. I doddled in the hotel room and ended up at the breakfast buffet by myself, leaving Michael and the kids to finish getting ready to hit the Green Field, Red Field and Chocolate Fields, at Hershey. Deciding on a Yoplait yogurt, I sat at the bar watching some morning program on the flat screen tv. Bored, I decided to read the label of the ketchup bottle in front of me ... and there is was ... HFCS.

Then I checked my yogurt ... and there it was again ... in YOGURT! You gotta be kidding me! I thought I was eating "healthy!" Turns out it's in everything. My guess is that it's cheap and probably acts as some kind of preservative! Well, you can imagine, I started checking EVERY label on EVERYTHING, both in the USA and Canada. Funny, but Canadian sodas don't list HFCS, neither does our yogurt, or cookies or cereal, etc.

What's with the double standard? Are the Canadian food and drug standards stricter than the FDA? Are we "safer" from the effects of HFCS? Sadly, doesn't look like it. I just pulled this off wikipedia, and my stomach dropped:

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — also called glucose-fructose syrup in the UK, and glucose/fructose in Canada — comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. In the United States, consumer foods and products typically use high-fructose corn syrup as a sugar substitute. In the United States, it has become very common in processed foods and beverages, including breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments.

Apparently we need to be on the lookout for other terms. And, without even looking, I know most of our packaged foods contain it by one name or another.

No matter what the name, it's probably close to impossible to avoid, but we should all pay attention. Whether it's Mercury heavy, or connected to obesity, it's definitely one to be aware of. Like many of our clients, Michael and I both work full time, run a household and juggle the activities of two busy kids. It's not like when I was a kid ... my mother made everything from scratch. I'm happy if we're eating "home cooking" rather than greasy take out, even if that home cooking starts with cans and packages! I think, though, it's time to take a step back from "convenience" and try getting back to basics.

Be well. - Linda