Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't Sugar-Coat High-Fructose Corn Syrup

I saw the first television ad today, effective use of GREENWASHING, we really need to tell everyone we know about this...

"Just make it an unintelligible symbol so we have to resort to saying, 'the substance formerly known as high-fructose corn syrup,'" one caller suggested on a WNYC public radio program about the Corn Refiners Association proposal to rename the ingredient "corn sugar." The rebranding campaign has gotten a lot of media attention, from the mainstream press to the foodie blogosphere. Last Friday, I was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show with NYU professor Marion Nestle to weigh in. When asked what she thinks it should be called, Nestle made the point that the stuff should really be called "corn sugars," plural, because it's technically more than one sugar. She said she didn't necessarily mind the name change; it could actually help clarify what it is: yet another added sugar we shouldn't be eating.

Though I see her point—high-fructose corn syrup is a bit of a mouthful, and what does it mean anyway?—I am concerned about changing the name.

Here's why.
Look at the history of corporate renaming efforts and you'll see that they are clearly deployed as strategies to confuse the public and inoculate industries in the wake of advocate attacks. Philip Morris wasn't just tired of the old name when it spent millions to retrofit the company and call it Altria (which always sounded like a clear attempt to associate the company with "altruism" to me). It did so because the company was increasingly under fire for its tobacco products and because public health advocates had tarred the name.

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