The battle may still be unsettled over the opinion whether high-fructose corn syrup is evil (mostly a war of words with little science on either side), but the question of whether consumers care may be settled. In this article it would appear consumers either don’t care, or are more concerned about sugar, or are actually somewhat favorable toward HFCS.
Now any study that comes up with conclusions that are favorable to those who paid for the study (Corn Refiners Association) is automatically suspect to me, but when it comes to whether consumers are listening to nutrition scolds the results of this survey are not surprising.
But it may also be that the basic point of nutrition scolds is that everything is evil, except kale, of course (it used to be broccoli, but that’s not trendy enough). So HFCS is evil, but then the great sage Mark Bittman declares sugar to be poison as well. And plenty of other nutrition scolds will tell you how evil artificial sweeteners are. So what is a poor soft drink drinker supposed to do – quit altogether. Of course, the nutrition scolds won’t be happy until they’re only drinking kale smoothies. But this is exactly why the nutrition scolds are so stupid, from a PR POV. They condemn everything! When everything is evil then the consumers just tune out and stop believing anything nutrition scolds say, which, frankly is actually wise since nutrition scolds are simply pushing a political POV, not a scientific one, i.e. reality/fact-based.
So if nutrition scolds think all sweeteners are evil (I wonder how they feel about agave, hardly a substitute Coke is going to go for) then who is waging the fight against HFCS?
Sugar producers, naturally. You see this whole thing really is just about money. Decades ago the sugar producers managed to block cheap foreign sugar. Good for the sugar producers, bad for Coke and Pepsi. So the market tends to respond to such over-pricing and so technology rides to the rescue. The corn producers, eager to grab some more demand for their excess corn, commission the work to invent HFCS and since it is a domestic product there is no way to artificially inflate its price so the soft drink makers (and many other products) started substituting cheap HFCS for artificially expensive sugar. So, of course, the sugar producers wanted to fight back. So they commissioned all these “health” studies to denounce HFCS and, of course, found bought-and-paid-for “experts” to find what the sugar producers wanted and then they flooded this fake information through all the nutrition scolds (who hate everything).
The public is out there being bombarded by basically commercial messages. So what do they do? Ignore most of it. Nutrition scolds contradict themselves, but also are like the nun who bashes your knuckles with the ruler – they rain on almost all parades. IOW, ignore them, they’re just whiners.
But also, the corn producers are not going to just roll over and let the sugar producers blast them with their fake studies, so the corn producers found their bought-and-paid-for researchers and came up with contradictory results. Now neither sets of studies are worth the paper they’re written on – poor science finding what the sponsors paid them to find (remember all those “scientists” (aka shills) paid to say nicotine was not addictive or the Kochs’ “scientists” who say climate change is a hoax). The trouble is that the war over profit in the marketplace corrupts the very process, the one potentially honest arbitrator, and then the nutrition scolds tell consumers they’re slobs and stupid for consuming products they enjoy, so the public just tunes everyone out.
Now, other than the fact that the obesity “epidemic” is mostly due to a change in how the data are classified and therefore, in fact, mostly a hoax, there is some real problem in the U.S. diet. And the diabetes lobby creates the scary monster of “metabolic syndrome” entirely without science and recent studies contradict them. It’s all money, it’s all corruption, it’s all hyper-opinion.
And the public, who needs accurate and helpful information, doesn’t get it. And so, obesity is a real (but not the scare-mongering threat), but people get little help on this. And both “natural” producers (sugar and corn) manage to create fear of the “artificial”. Now either “natural” sugar in soda is loaded with calories. People should consume less or actually get over their irrational fear of the “artificial” and consume zero cal soda. But that message is lost among the propaganda fight for market share and the opinionated bigotry of the nutrition scolds. So consumers ignore all the noise, but meanwhile get fatter, plus steadily add to their gestalt that “experts” are just like politicians, saying whatever it takes to get their money.
So Mark, get real. Get a message that people can understand, a message that is actually accurate, and a message that people can respond to (telling them to stop drinking soda altogether is silly, we know how well prohibition works). Let’s help people manage weight realistically and cut the attitude.