Sugar’s Back in Town

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We all tremble in fear.  The smooth, sweet, and tantalizingly tasty villain who plots to increase our blood glucose, stuff us with calories, and raise our obesity rate is a constant shadow over our collective dietary happiness.  Sugar.  Oohh, goosebumps.

Sugar has been cast as a nutritional evil for decades now, and despite myriad scoops about the cancer risks of artificial sweeteners, “sugar-free” is still a top choice for dieters.  During the beginning of the anti-sugar days the sugar industry tried to fight back.  Below are some…creative attempts that don’t quite hit the mark:

By the mid-80′s the campaign against sugar was so strong that Kellogg’s decided to change the name of it’s popular “Sugar Pops” cereal to “Corn Pops.”  Check out an old Sugar Pops commercial:

Ironically, Kellogg’s chose the one name that could potentially come back to bite them in the…pops.  Corn is a ubiquitous ingredient in American culture, most notably because it’s used to make corn syrup, the high fructose variety being the substance that has replaced sugar in most of our manufactured food products.

But lately high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has caught a bad rap, following its nemesis sugar into the path of destruction at the hands of the media-panicked populace.  HFCS has been hand-picked as the scapegoat for America’s dangerous and embarrassing obesity epidemic, and is now suffering a serious image problem.  And just as sugar did decades ago, the corn industry is fighting back with some pretty aggressive advertising.  Here’s a commercial that makes a poor suburban housewife look like a total idiot:

Despite the fact that many scientists are skeptical of the actual evidence that HFCS is any worse than sugar, this marketing disaster is impacting the food industry in a big way, according to FoodQualityNews.com.

The first big fish to make the switch is in the world of drinks.  PepsiCo has released an allnatural Pepsi version called Pepsi Natural, so we have to assume Coca-Cola will soon be announcing something similar.  Snapple also recently switched to sugar in its iced teas.  The manufacturers claim that this has to do with extensive taste-testing, although why they’re just getting around to these decades AFTER the release of HFCS is quite an intriguing mystery.

But there’s no denying the convenient timing of this ingredient-switch, just as HFCS stock is plummeting and sugar is back with an all new “all-natural” wardrobe.  Sounds like it’s more about tasty marketing than taste buds.

Whew.  This issue is frought with controversy: Obesity, organics, HFCS vs. sugar, farming subsidies, the fact that Americans will try anything and spend billions to escape the need to learn how to live in moderation…

What do you think?  Is sugar the enemy, or is it HFCS?  Should we worry about the increased presence of sugar in our lives?  Does anyone want to weigh in on how we as responsible foodies should respond to this development?

Either way, it looks like we could be seeing “Sugar Pops” back on the shelves soon.

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Shari Ilsen

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