I received my very first piece of hate mail last fall. I didn't take it particularly personally as it wasn't really a personal attack on me but more an attack on my profession as a whole. My friend Adam congratulated me, saying that when you can evoke a reaction in someone- good or bad- than you have made a difference. What I never expected, with this here wee little blog of mine, was to instigate a response from some big fat American dietary propaganda organization, also known as the Corn Refiners Association.
It seems that my post entitled "What's Your Poison" which contained the line "food grade petroleum based high fructose corn syrup junk", triggered something in the search mechanism the Corn Refiners have set up that prompted an email full of links about how High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) isn't bad and yadda, yadda, yadda... I thought it was funny and when I sent it to my friend Vanessa, who writes for the National Post, she mentioned that she had received the same email when she had written about it. What was mildly concerning however was when I received a packet in the mail to my address at the Making Love In The Kitchen Headquarters which means it isn't a totally mechanical defense program they have going on there. Kinda creepy and totally suspect.
"Defense is the first act of war" says motivational author Byron Katie. This is true and also true is that sometimes it is better to be at peace than to be right. I choose to share information that I believe and welcome questions, comments and well thought out challenges, but rarely will I aggressively defend my views. We all have a right to our own opinions.
I did have a look at the materials that were sent to me (and it was a thick shiny papered package of info that smelled all toxic and inky). The gist of the info was to defer the blame of the problem of American Obesity and the epidemic of excessive lifestyle diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc) away from HFCS- not by saying it is not the cause but by saying it is no worse than other sugars. There was also a handout on the victory when the American Medical Association permitted HCFS to be listed as a "Natural" ingredient. As far as I'm concerned a natural ingredient is something that at least somewhat resembles the plant or animal, bean or seed that it originally came from. Not sure how a sickeningly sweet syrup has any resemblance to a kernal of starchy inedible corn. To me, a natural substance is something that comes form the earth or can be processed into something else using basic home cooking methods. If you have seen the fabulous documentary King Corn- than you have seen the experiment they did- wearing protective goggles and all, as they attempted to make HFCS in their kitchen.
The above trailer for the new documentary Killer At Large, talks about how huge (no pun intended) this problem is in America. I witnessed it for myself on my trip to Chicago. The issue is not about pointing fingers and deflecting blame, as the Corn Refiners Association have done with their defensive marketing campaign, but to seriously start negotiating some solutions. These lifestyle-related epidemics are costing us a fortune in all ways- on food, on health care, on energy use, on emotional and physical toxicity, on relationships, right down to clothing budgets. It is expensive to be sick- whether health care is public or private. In this economy we can't afford it and the problem is growing. Defending HFCS, adding apples with caramel dipping sauce at McDonald's as a healthy option, liposuction on pre-teens, kids on cholesterol meds and anti-depressants... these approaches are not dealing with why they are needed in the first place.
Is high fructose corn syrup to blame? Is McDonald's to blame? Is Coca-Cola to blame? Is the pharmaceutical industry to blame? Is our government to blame?
They are all contributing factors. They may not be the sole problem, but they are certainly not part of a root cause, upstream solution.