In industry controversies concerning food, someone always lies in order to make more money.

The corn industry has a new cause: corn sugar.

You gotta love the media spins here. Walking in the corn fields, in the open air and sunshine. Cute children. Calm, rational-sounding voice saying, “Hey, don’t worry. High-fructose corn syrup is just like cane sugar.”

How about a fact or two?

  1. Cane sugar is sucrose, which is a chemical combination of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Corn syrup is a mechanical mixture of fructose and glucose in varying proportions depending upon intended use of the product. They are not identical.
  2. The body digests sucrose by secreting sucrase, which breaks down sucrose into its constituent parts. Corn syrup is dumped directly into the small intestine without intermediate digestive processes.
  3. Glucose is absorbed by the small intestine into the body for metabolic needs, while undigested fructose is taken by the bloodstream into the liver, where it is metabolized into, among other things, triglycerides and fatty acids. (Here is more than you ever wanted to know about fructose metabolism.) High levels of triglycerides and fatty acids are bad news for everyone.
  4. Corn syrup processing dumps significant amounts of sulfites into the end product. The FDA has not allowed sulfite use with fresh fruits and vegetables since 1986. Why do they allow it in corn syrup?
  5. Princeton performed a study upon rats where groups were given the same (high) caloric levels of corn syrup and sugar. The corn syrup-fed rats became obese at a much higher rate than the rats fed sugar; the exact cause is unknown.
  6. Manufacturers of food-like substances use high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because it’s cheaper than sugar. The cost differential is caused mostly by taxpayer-funded subsidies to corn growers. Your government encourages HFCS use.
  7. If HFCS is as harmless as the corn industry claims, why do so many manufacturers of food-like products brag about not using it?

Guess what the most prevalent ingredient is in non-fat “half-and-half”? HFCS. In many condiments such as barbeque sauce and ketchup? HFCS. In Coke and other sodas (after water)? HFCS. In almost all commercial breads (after flour)? HFCS.

So, there’s lots of money involved in this issue, and that is always a big red warning flag — when money’s involved, someone is always lying to make more of it.

Using large amounts of sweeteners is never a good thing in any event, no matter which sweetener is used. Check the ingredients in the processed food you buy, and, as Michael Pollan admonishes, eat nothing that has any sweetener listed as one of the first three ingredients.

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Yet one more reason why growing your own is always better

Honey is beginning to…

Rather, I should say “honey” is beginning to show up on your grocery shelf that most likely isn’t real honey.

Years ago the Chinese government began a program of heavy subsidy to its honey producers. The result was that a tremendous amount of extremely cheap honey was being dumped into the U.S. market. The honey producers lobby took two steps: they asked the federal government to put a steep tariff on Chinese honey (so that U.S. producers wouldn’t be run out of business), and they began having Chinese honey tested for content and purity.

Investigators discovered that most Chinese honey was heavily laced with antibiotics (some of them illegal in the U.S.), and that what was often labelled “honey” was actually the result of feeding the bees high-fructose corn syrup instead of letting the bees forage for wildflowers and cultivated plants.

And now another discovery has been made: a lot of Chinese honey (and honey from unknown origins and packed by U.S. companies) now contains no pollen.

The official excuse is that American tastes demand crystalline-clear product, and the lack of pollen is the result of a high-pressure filtering process. The more likely reason is that such honey comes from bees that never see a flower in their six-week-long lives, and whose origin now cannot be determined.

Some interesting discoveries were made by Vaughan Bryant, a melissopalynologist from Texas A&M University:

  • 76% of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, The stores include TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop, and King Soopers.
  • 100% of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77% of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100% of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s, and KFC had no pollen.
  • Every sample bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

Honey without pollen cannot be traced to its origin, and in truth it cannot be confirmed as to whether such material came from bees feeding on plants or bees feeding from buckets of high-fructose corn syrup. You can’t even prove it is honey at all.

The lesson here is that just like any other pursuit of quality food, whether it be honey or meat or produce or whatever, it is always best to buy local, from someone you trust.

As Michael Pollan has said, “Cheap food is an illusion. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere.”

“Pay more, eat less”

Work and Civilization 5 have eaten up all my free time lately. Sorry about that.

Ran across a Michael Pollan book called Food Rules. It’s a wonderful, short book on rules for good (moral, healthy, sensible) eating styles and habits. The gems include:

Eat food.

“These days this is easier said than done, especially when 17,000 new products show up in the supermarket each year, all vying for your food dollar. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food — I call them edible foodlike substances…”

Avoid foods that have sugar (or some other sweetener) listed in the top three ingredients.

Only eat foods that will eventually rot.

(Would you eat anything that bacteria and fungi won’t?)

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

If you have the space, buy a freezer.

Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant food.

Plant a vegetable garden if you have the room, or a window box if you don’t.