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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Nutrition in the News

Disney:  This week a number of interesting articles appeared about nutrition.  One of the top stories was about Disney.  What does Disney have to do with nutrition?  In one word, advertising.  Disney announced they will no longer advertise junk food on the morning cartoons for children. No more junk food ads on their TV channels, radio or website.   What do they consider junk-food ads?

            Sugary cereals – those with more than 10 grams of sugar per serving
            Fast food
            Capri Sun drink – too much sugar
            Oscar Mayer Lunchables – too much sodium

First Lady Michelle Obama was part of the announcement as she has been working for a long time on a campaign against childhood obesity.  According to the Associated Press, she called Disney’s move a “game changer”. 

It is interesting that one of the assignments I give to students in the Child Health class I teach, is to watch children’s TV on a Saturday morning and count up the junk food ads aimed at kids.  Looks like there won’t be too many junk food ads on the Disney channel line up.  But since the rules won’t take effect for a few years, not until 2015, there is still time to adversely influence many kids watching TV. 

What is great about the Disney initiative is that it didn’t take government rulemaking to make it happen. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup:  Also in the news this week was high fructose corn syrup.  Although manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup would like everyone to believe their product is just the same as “sugar”.  Studies are controversial on this topic.  Some say high fructose corn syrup leads to obesity and other health problems.  Other studies indicate high fructose corn syrup is really no different than sugar.  But high fructose corn syrup is an “added sugar” and contributes only empty calories to our diet and  no vitamins or minerals. 

To make high fructose corn syrup more acceptable to consumers, the manufacturers wanted to rename their product “corn sugar”.  Then consumers would be unaware the food item had any high fructose corn syrup in the food they were eating.  The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration in September 2010 to  let them call their product “corn sugar” so consumers could be misled into thinking their high fructose corn syrup was a natural ingredient made from corn. 

FDA ruled on this request this week.  FDA’s answer, NO.  The director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA sent a letter to the Corn Refiners Association  on May 30, 2012.  FDA stated,

“HCFS is an aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose……. Thus, the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HCFS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.” 

A long about way of saying, NO, but the request was denied.  According to the New York Times*, the Corn Refiners Association issued a statement indicating “high fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.”   Thanks to FDA, at least foods made with HCFS will still label it high fructose corn syrup in  the ingredient list. 


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