Here’s hoping that the lead story in today’s New York Times Business section is enough to steel Congressmen and women against the big-spending lobbyists and public relations flacks hired by agribusinesses like ADM to try to sneak more High Fructose Corn Syrup into Americans’ foodstuffs. As if we don’t already consume enough of their toxic sludge!
WASHINGTON — The corn refinery and sugar industries, bitter rivals in the manufacture of billions of dollars’ worth of sweeteners for sodas and other high-calorie foods, covertly funded dueling nonprofit groups in Washington in a multiyear effort to grab market share, while also stoking fears among consumers about possible health risks, court records made public in a federal lawsuit between the two parties show.
The lawsuit, which has brought hundreds of pages of secret corporate emails and strategy documents into the public domain, demonstrates how Washington-based groups and academic experts frequently become extensions of corporate lobbying campaigns as rival industries use them to try to inflict damage on their competitors or defend their reputations against such assaults.
In this case, academic research published a decade ago suggested that high-fructose corn syrup, the popular food additive, might be a less healthy sweetener than sugar and perhaps even partly responsible for rising obesity and diabetes.
Stung by such assertions, which the corn industry insisted were false, farming giants including Archer Daniels Midland, of Decatur, Ill., and Cargill, of Minneapolis, began an effort through their Washington trade group, the Corn Refiners Association, to rebut these studies and to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to declare its syrup “natural” and allow a more approachable product name, like “corn sugar.”
While these actions have already been the subject of public debate, the corporate documents show that the sugar and corn industries collectively spent tens of millions of dollars to influence public opinion, at times without full public disclosure, about the risks or benefits of using high-fructose corn syrup.
The public relations campaign by the Corn Refiners Association was the most extensive, spending more than $30 million since 2008, budget documents released as part of the lawsuit suggest.
The corn industry executives were determined to find a way to reverse the drop in market share that began as certain popular products, including Gatorade and Wheat Thins, switched sweeteners in response to the perceived health concerns.
Their efforts included spending about $10 million over a four-year period to help fund research being conducted by a Massachusetts-based cardiologist and health expert, Dr. James M. Rippe, who then released a series of studies disputing any special health consequences associated with the corn-based sweeter…
[continues in the New York Times]