High-Fructose Public Relations

Nutrition experts are battling sugar industry trade groups over over public information about the health hazards of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other caloric sweeteners. Nutrition experts say that the sweeteners added to soft drinks and countless other foods and beverages increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and promote weight gain by adding empty calories to the average diet. Making matters worse for corn refiners, Pepsico is offering "Pepsi Throwback" and "Mountain Dew Throwback," two versions of the popular soda drinks made with "natural sugar" instead of HFCS, and sporting a "rad vintage look." But HFCS manufacturers say their products don't cause health problems or weight gain. To make their point, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is running a series of TV ads aimed at boosting the image of HFCS and convincing people that they are misled by marketing tactics that imply that products labeled "high-fructose corn syrup-free" are healthier than products with HFCS. CRA also launched sweetsurprise.com, a Web site featuring photos of cute, slender, healthy-looking kids and families happily eating, drinking and riding bikes. The site touts the benefits of HFCS and has articles countering claims that HFCS has any relationship to obesity and other health problems.