Industry works to save high-fructose corn syrup from 'fat' reputation

WASHINGTON: As part of its $1 million marketing campaign, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is calling for media outlets to dispel myths that the organization claims unfairly blames high-fructose corn syrup for America's obesity epidemic.

WASHINGTON: As part of its $1 million marketing campaign, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is calling for media outlets to dispel myths that the organization claims unfairly blames high-fructose corn syrup for America's obesity epidemic.

CCF, a group that says it is funded by the food industry, launched its “Sweet Scam” campaign on September 29 with a national, print and TV ad campaign claiming that pure sugar is not healthier than high-fructose corn syrup. The effort comes at a time when the national debate surrounding American obesity and healthcare has intensified, prompting several groups to launch health-related campaigns. The nonprofit declined to disclose its partners.

“With our media outreach, we're pointing out that the sugar industry has been one of the biggest forces behind creating a lot of this misinformation about high-fructose corn syrup,” said Sarah Longwell, communications director at the CCF. “So the media outreach component has been a bit more aggressive in tone than the actual ad campaign.”

The Sugar Association flatly denies any allegations that it is part of a campaign to smear high-fructose corn syrup.

“The sugar industry does not now sponsor, nor has it ever engaged in such a campaign,” it said in a statement. “Our outreach to the public continues to be based solely on good science and focuses on the same message we have been using for years - sugar is all natural and only 15 calories per teaspoon.” It also accused CCF of being the “party engaging in a public campaign of deception.”

CCF said its outreach has targeted food and beverage trade press, consumer bloggers and reporters, and the food and health community at mainstream newspapers.

“The mainstream reporters are the reporters who, when the initial conversation about high-fructose corn syrup started, were quick to demonize it,” Longwell. “So we've been pushing very hard to get them to correct the record.”

Wilson added that health columnists and natural-food enthusiasts have been especially vocal about their criticism of the corn-based sweetener, so outreach will also hone into these groups.

The campaign will also target brands like Starbucks that have recently marketed their products as being high-fructose corn syrup-free. None of CCF's campaign will feature its funders, Wilson said.

The current ads use humor, like actors dressed as ears of corn standing in a police lineup, as way to generate buzz.

“We used humor because people don't respond well to just putting information in front of their faces,” said Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the CCF.

While the group is simultaneously backing campaigns against the soda tax, this initiative is not related to those efforts, Wilson noted.

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