I received the following email from a student at a local high school. Explorer is a lower school that my daughters went to at the same time as this student. My reply is below.
My name is xxxxxxxxx, I am a former Explorer student who is now a rising junior at High Tech High. I decided to send this email to the families of Explorer and former Explorer students because it deals with an issue that is very relevant to parents and children.
The issue in question is high-fructose corn syrup. For those of you who do not know, high-fructose corn syrup is a processed corn sweetener that is common in a wide array of foods. Many respected and unbiased institutions- such as Princeton University, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, etc. have conducted studies on this food additive and have concluded that it is likely a major contributor to the American obesity epidemic. HFCS may also be linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
Because of this, I have started a petition on the White House website asking the Obama administration to reduce the availability of high-fructose corn syrup. I urge all who care about health and nutrition to sign my petition:
Thank you very much! And please forward this link to your colleagues, friends, etc.
PS Making an account and signing is very easy and takes only seconds.
The following is my reply.
I too share your concerns regarding the adverse nutritional impact of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and commend you for your investigations in the area of human nutrition. I also share your concern regarding the "American obesity epidemic" and associated disease states such as diabetes.
However, I am unable to support your petition for many reasons.
In addition to HFCS, there are a huge number of foods, drinks, and other consumables that have adverse effects on human health when consumed in large quantities: sugar, candy, cookies, cakes, pasta, bread, trans-fats, sodas, beer, wine, liquor, and tobacco to name just a few. HFCS doesn't even lead the list in terms of adverse impact on human health and life expectancy (that dishonor is held by tobacco). If it's helpful to restrict HFCS in order to enhance the health of Americans, clearly it would be helpful to restrict or eliminate many of these other items as well.
However, with the exception of tobacco, none of the things on this list, including HFCS, have adverse impacts on health when used in moderation by healthy people. In addition, eating is a fundamental activity of humans (all animals), and the joy of consuming the "treats" on the list is substantial and should not be discounted. In my opinion, nobody should make the tradeoff of the enjoyment of eating versus potential health effects for someone else, including you and the Obama administration.
As you note in your petition, the government provides agricultural subsidies to corn farmers. While I would support eliminating corn subsidies, the idea of adding restrictions on corn based products while subsidizing corn production makes no sense at all to me.
It seems to me that Obama's administration is having enough trouble dealing with its current set of chores. Some of the many examples include delays in implementing the ACA (sometimes known as "Obamacare"), NSA spying overreach, IRS targeting of political opponents, troubles with embassy security (e.g. Benghazi), and on and on. It seems like the last thing our President needs is to have to figure out how to regulate, restrict, and perhaps eliminate a food item while balancing the desires of consumers and the needs of people working in agriculture.
In addition, I think that the federal level is the wrong level of government to consider restrictions on HFCS. For example, have you researched the health and dietary needs of everyone across the entire country? Do all of the people from Maine to the southwest deserts, from the everglades to islands in Puget Sound, from the Mexican border towns to Canadian border towns all have the same needs and consumption patterns? If not, perhaps nationwide action is inadvisable. Perhaps this sort of advocacy should occur at the State and/or local levels. How about starting with having San Diego restaurants voluntarily pledge to avoid using HFCS and see how it goes?
Information and education are good. There are many ways to get your opinion heard and to educate people about the adverse effects of HFCS. For example, are you aware of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI, nusi.org)? Perhaps volunteering with them would be a good approach to advocate for scientific based dissemination of nutritional information.
If people are armed with the right information, at least there's a chance that they'll make decisions and take actions that optimizes the tradeoffs that are continually part of each of our lives.
P.S. Your email and this response are being posted on my blog (with your name removed). My readers can decide for themselves and perhaps some of them will sign on to your petition.