Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

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.
Hello, 
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: 
http://wh.gov/lCiH9
Thank you very much! And please forward this link to your colleagues, friends, etc. 
xxxxxxxxxx 
PS Making an account and signing is very easy and takes only seconds.


The following is my reply.

Dear xxxxxxxxx, 
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. 
Sincerely,
Bret 
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.

14 comments:

erp said...

Meanie!

Bret said...

Don't worry, the young man is undaunted and will no doubt continue his advocacy.

erp said...

It will be interesting to learn where this one is coming from -- the sugar lobby maybe -- obviously the breakthless youngster (I'm surprised it's a male, it sounds more like a teenage girl) didn't just wake up one morning to learn that corn fructose is unhealthy.

Of course, he's right, but as you point out, so are dozens if not hundreds of food products we eat in great quantities practically with every mouthful.

Annoying Old Guy said...

erp;

It's not about HFC, it's about "educating" kids to react like trained seals to emotional approaches (see Skipper's recent comments about this at the adult level, this is the factory for such people).

erp said...

Of course aog. That's a given. My comment above is about where this issue came from? It's a new one for me. There's been some vague blather I've seen here and there about corn production. Don't know anything about it, but if it's in the "news," I can be pretty sure some Obama crony capitalist is getting ready to confiscate more of our money.

And speaking about confiscating, I notice Clovis doesn't comment on the DOJ confiscating all the Zimmerman trial evidence or the fact the Trayvon's parents collected at least one million dollars from the HOA insurance company.

Peter said...

That was very good, Bret, you're a natural teacher. It was wise of you to restrain from a diversion to the tyranny of public libraries.

I always feel a little sorry for kids like this, who often appear to have spent their childhood being indoctrinated in causes du jour. What in the world is a middle teen doing spending his/her time agitating about corn syrup? I'm guessing he or she is like the precious/precocious kids I sometimes see in the cafeterias of ski hills. While the other kids are inhaling their burgers and fries with gusto, they can be found with their purposeful mothers and languid fathers in a far corner eating hummous and celery sticks out of Tupperware.

But did you notice that he doesn't proposed to lobby "the Federal Government" or even "Washington". The target is "the Obama admimistration". Shades of "If only someone would tell the Czar about this"? I guess the mystique isn't dead yet.

erp said...

Peter:

The kid's already a cog and knows things are done by fiat aka EO's now.

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

The dreaded double post strikes again. Sorry!

Bret said...

Peter,

Thanks for the complement.

By the way, if you ever have an interest in blogging again (and I can guarantee that the regulars here, including me, miss your blogs), you're always welcome to blog here.

Everybody else is welcome to blog here as well, but the rest of you have your own blogs.

erp said...

Great idea. I second the notion er motion!

Bret said...

aog wrote: "...it's about "educating" kids to react like trained seals to emotional approaches..."

Yes. Explorer Elementary is a charter school that is indeed one of these touchy-feely schools that focuses on emotional approaches. From their website: "Explorer’s mission is to successfully blend a child-centered, socially intelligent approach to education with exemplary curriculum..." Social intelligent, indeed!

So you might wonder why I sent my children there? Well, it was a nice, friendly environment, and I was pretty confident I could offset any unreasonable indoctrination (and I'm pretty sure I've succeeded). And it's not like the public schools were all that much less ideological.

If I remember correctly who this kid is, he comes from a family that is way into the indoctrination and control thing.

Lastly, he did respond to my response. He wasn't the least bit swayed by my arguments. What a surprise!

Peter said...

Thanks for the invitation, Bret. That's a bit like offering a problem drinker the keys to your liquor cabinet. Seriously, I gave up my blog the day I was headed to court on a motion and found myself mentally composing a reply to Skipper on Darwinism rather than focussing on my client's cause. For the time being, I'll stick to playing gadfly here and there and try to help quality blogmeisters like you from running echo chambers. Somebody has to give erp and AOG runs for their money.

That mission statement from the school fascinates me. At my wife's small private grade school, there are periodic collective group wanks by the parents over mission statements that can be surpisingly long and divisive, and usually result in little more than some bromide about teaching "the whole child". They are perfect postmodern cultural statements the way they combine classical reformist dirigisme with modern psycho-babble. The squabbling in this rarefied air of abstract gobbledegook can lead to migraines! They often remind me of a great Doonsbury cartoon from many years ago when the students got together to pass resolutions on Vietnam, and were so divided they went all the way from an initial call for an immediate unilateral withdrawal to proposing an orderly staged withdrawal to finally resolving that "War is Bad".

In some ways, these intense, humorless activists trying to regulate our lunch boxes and much more are the descendants of the Puritans, and we shouldn't forget their formative influence on American political culture. It actually can be quite difficult to challenge them at times, in part because they are so zealous, but also because there often is a serious problem behind their concerns and society does sometimes improve as a result of these campaigns. You did a super job with this young person, but it can be a real challenge to make the case for limited government and individual responsibility without seemingly shilling for Coco Puffs and Baconators.

Apologies if I have said this before here, but when Blomsberg was on his campaign to limit the size of sugary drinks in NYC, he posed for a pic with his "Health Advisors". Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. They all looked like anorexic Park Avenue matrons who survived on a diet of raw vegetables as they lived out their mission to save the little people from themselves. I was really sorry there wasn't a popular politican from some place like Harlem to say that he, too, was worried about obesity, but he was also worried about excess alcohol consumption, and so he would support the mayor's proposal if the mayor supported his plan to restrict the sale of wine in NYC to half-bottles.

erp said...

Thanks Peter.

Us kool kids need a firm hand lest we lunge headlong into the political maelstrom.

Regarding the topic of this post: I've been getting an eye-opening look at the media from a completely different perspective while staying here in upscale Connecticut with my 16 year old granddaughter. Everyone, her parents included, is engrossed in culture -- the theater, movies, television and the arts.

Last evening’s entertainment was the film entitled, "The Informant."

The point of the movie if there is one other than corporate greed is global eluded me and I don’t know who the real bad guys were, if there were any, but the cast of characters leads me to believe the truth didn't get star billing. That’s hardly startling, but what did startle me was a throw-away line about, wait for it, "High-Fructose Corn Syrup."

I confess to dozing a bit (watching Matt Damon's lip quiver while wearing a fright wig is exhausting), so I didn't get the context, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bret's young emailing zealot wasn't turned on to the problem by the film which I gather is a favorite among the compassionates.