Hey moms! Have you heard the news? You and your entire family can start loading up on soda, Twinkies and anything else with high fructose corn syrup again, because It's not as evil as we've been led to believe. How do I know? Because I heard it on a TV commercial!
Two new TV ads running now are just the start of an 18-month long campaign aimed at erasing the stigma surrounding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), as you can read here in this TIME article. You see, the Corn Refiners Association thinks their refined corn sweetener has gotten a bad rap --- just like the Sugar Association thinks their product has been unfairly blamed for contributing to America's obesity epidemic.
Imagine that. Two lobbying groups attempting a major marketing makeover to change America's mind about the consequences of excessive use of their products. The next thing you know, the tobacco lobby will launch a campaign to convince us that smoking isn't hazardous to our health.
All sarcasm aside, and in all fairness - high fructose corn sugar, as well as other sweeteners including sugar, are not entirely to blame for our weight woes. As the American Medical Association reported back in June, "because the composition of HFCS and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose." And let's be honest, America's couch-potato tendencies and addiction to salty products are also huge culprits.
But the PR blitz to turn HFCS into some sort of innocent bystander is, in a word, bizarre. I'm speaking primarily about the ad running now showing two moms chatting at a birthday party, as one mom pours a Kool-aid like drink out of plastic jug:
MOM 1: "Woowwww. You don't care what the kids eat, huh."
MOM 2: "'Scuse me?"
MOM 1: "That has high fructose corn syrup in it."
MOM 2: "And...."
MOM 1: "You know what they say about it?
MOM 2: "Like what...that it's made from corn, doesn't have artificial ingredients and that like sugar, is fine in moderation?"
That seems to shut up Mom 1, who has no comeback. Maybe she's just too stunned that someone is defending a chemically-altered refined corn product as "natural."
The reaction out in Mom-land is not surprising. "They can tell us whatever they want, but we're not drinking the Kool-Aid," says MomLogic - where readers also expressed mostly shock, amazement and disdain regarding the campaign.
Parent Dish takes it a step further. "If the CRA really believes their own "in moderation" line, then they should be reducing HFCS in children's food products. Not staging a mommy war next to the cupcakes."
And on YouTube, 358 out of more more than 100,000 viewers of the ad felt strongly enough about the commercial to comment on it. And although I didn't have time to browse through all of them - let's just say the discussion is heated and not very complimentary.
However, one astute reader of Parent Dish likened the HFCS campaign to another more politically correct PR blitz: "Regardless of the message, they (the corn producers) are just using the same tactics that 'green' folks have been using for ages now."
I couldn't agree more. But what the HFCS blitz lacks is some good old-fashioned smarts. To make any inroads what-so-ever with today's moms, it has to be an intelligent campaign aimed not at manipulating attitudes with fuzzy logic - but rather with honest, straight talk that actually shows some good faith in helping people make wise decisions. Maybe a mini-lesson on healthy daily calorie guidelines...suggestions on how kids can burn-off a Twinkie treat (biking around the block? swinging for 10 minutes?)...real-world examples of HFCS in moderation (two sodas a week?) that make sense...anything other than a lame commercial pitting two moms against each other.
I don't know how much the CRA is spending on this 18-month long campaign - but it's wasted money if it continues on its current course.