Brands and blog tours – not always so sweet.

I guess I’m super behind the times in just having learned that there’s a promotional mommyblog tour right now for the Corn Refiners Association via the marketing consultancy, Mom Central. A few dozen bloggers, paid in gift certificates, listened to a webinar and then posted the promotional information disseminated by the CRA and their paid experts.


Although in fairness, the CRA twitter feed informed me that it was not promotional.  It was educational.

You know what’s educational? This New York Times editorial by Michael Pollan.

And this one.

And this one.

I am totally not down with high fructose corn syrup (or Corn Sugar or Mercury-Laced Sweetener or whatever they call it now) and have been writing about it for a while now. You can thank Nate in part for that. He’s my agro-idealism hero.

If you don’t believe that HFCS bad for you, then believe it’s bad for the environment. If you don’t believe that, then believe that the corn subsidies are bad for us economically.

So while I can’t blame an industry for trying to stay in business in the face of oh, pretty much anyone with half a brain who knows that foods processed within an inch of their lives are killing us slowly and that there’s no need to have HFCS in bread, ketchup, or canned peaches–I find the CRA’s entire campaign predatory and misleading. Case in point: This (infuriating) “advertorial” [*link to cache of post which was removed] on Mom Central, (also covered at BNET who doesn’t like it much either) which includes claims like High fructose corn syrup, like sugar and honey, is natural.

Natural? Last I checked, there was no High Fructose Corn Syrup Tree.

All this said, I’m not a scientist. I’m not a nutritionist (or they’d kick me out of the club for malpractice) I can’t cite as many sources as a lot of you can to defend my distrust of high-fructose corn syrup.

Also, I love Coke. And Pepsi. So full disclaimer: I’m a total hypocrite.


This whole thing is raising all sorts of questions for me about blogger-brand relationships, once again. Because it used to be that it was just some KY Jelly product hoping for a mention. I feel like this kind of lobbyist-created advocacy changes everything.

Alas, I can’t change the world. All I can change is me. (Or us?)

So I ask myself, what’s our personal responsibility when we accept campaigns like this?  What’s our responsibility to our readers beyond the little FTC disclosure bit (speaking of which, some bloggers disclosed compensation, some didn’t).

Is a review the same as an endorsement? Is reprinting press materials verbatim the same as a “review?”

If we are to engage on blog tours and brand tours and sponsored posts, what do we owe our readers, exactly?

Then I wonder, what’s a consultant’s responsibility in disseminating the information to the bloggers they work with? I was saddened to learn that on the Mom Central advertorial post, the author is identified as an MD, but not as a paid consultant for the Corn Refiner’s Association, which the BNET article revealed to me.

I see that as intentionally misleading. I don’t like it.

It makes me think about the big ol’ Nestle Family twitstorm earlier this year. What was Nestle Family’s obligation to their guests when Nestle boycotters took issue with the event and started challenging the bloggers there? If we use a hashtag or accept a free trip–or even a gift certificate–are we now spokespeople for the brand?

Really, what is the marketer’s obligation to protect us as publishers or marketing partners, even as they are trying to sway us as consumers? And how can we insist on it?

Too many questions, it’s hurting my head!

Personally, I would start with just making sure a blogger understands the outreach to begin with. One blogger on the HFCS tour wrote (no link out of respect)

The professional speakers used a lot of technical scientific terms and words that rather confused me,  but ultimately the important message I learned from them is that there is no significant difference between HFCS and table sugar. 

Judging from quite a few of the other posts I read, they also didn’t seem to understand much more than the simple talking point “HFCS and table sugar are the same.” And they didn’t seem to research the issue much beyond what they were told by the paid endorsers before creating their posts.

One blogger confessed apologetically on her blog after her comments got heated:

We only know what we [were taught by the CRA]. I actually was thinking about doing more research after doing my post as I am not educated enough on this topic to really say how I feel about it in all honesty. 

Educational indeed.

Now surely a blogger can’t be held responsible for every action of every company we recommend. We all have different levels of understanding of brands and products, and different things we care about. I always feel defensive when I see bloggers being attacked in comments for whom they choose to endorse. Frankly, dig into most multinationals and there is some skeleton in some closet somewhere. If not right in the foyer. We have to pick and choose our battles, and my battle may not be the same as yours.

But–and I’ve said this many times before–I believe we all need to own our words.

And I do think we have an obligation to understand what we’re posting about and who we’re advocating for–not just when it’s paid, but especially when it’s paid.

This week, a whole team of bloggers got paid in gift certificates by a multi-million dollar lobbying organization so that when concerned parents hit the web and Google High Fructose Corn Syrup, they’ll get a bunch of posts from “trusted moms” saying HFCS is just like sugar! Don’t cut it out any more than you cut out honey! It’s fine! It’s NATURAL. Doctors told us so.

I hope it was a really good gift certificate.


For the follow up to this post, please see On ethics and integrity. The real kind, not the pretend kind for your press kit.


182 thoughts on “Brands and blog tours – not always so sweet.”

  1. Great post! I do think bloggers should do some research and understand the product before they participate in a blog tour.

    But I am the wrong person to even discuss HFCS.. I am mad enough about why they need to put sugar in fruit juice..

  2. A blog tour is a series of posts around a single topic or product, generally set to run at a given time, all coordinated by a central consultant or PR person, then generally aggregated in one place, like on that consultant's own website.

  3. I declined to participate in that campaign when it came out. I am always honest, regardless of compensation or not. To me, true product reviews and articles teach the readers and the brands what works and what doesn't.

  4. On the up side, every single blogger on this tour can now be easily crossed off the list of People I Will Ever Read Or Take Seriously For Even A Moment. So there's that.

    (Thank you for your eloquence, Liz. All I could manage in the face of this was incoherent, rage-filled muttering.)

  5. Great post on an important topic. I was SO surprised when I got the email concerning this tour- there was no way I could post about it and look at my blog in the morning. The excerpts you posted proved there are people put there who just don't know any better–but are they the best to promote a brand? Kinda scary. Like you, I know HFCS is bad, and I work to avoid it (candy not included)…..thanks for writing this!

  6. This makes me woozy. WOOZY.

    I..I just don't get it. I don't. The same as sugar? Honey? Are they KIDDING ME? You need to wear protection to MAKE this stuff because there are CAUSTIC CHEMICALS involved.

    I love your balanced writing and coverage of the topic. So much. Thinking about this stuff makes me buggy, though, and then incoherently angry and then kind of hopeless.

    Gift certificates, eh? Hmm.

  7. Heather and Michelle, three cheers! I wish you would write about this too.

    What makes the idea of an “educational” blog tour disingenuous is the fact that skeptics and dissenters feel they need to decline instead of writing a negative post.

    It's also why getting paid for reviews by the marketer you're reviewing is a crappy model.

  8. Great post Liz! Sounds like corporate America taking advantage of underinformed bloggers. It is so important for bloggers (esp. moms) to research and know what they are advocating for before they post!

  9. BLECH. That's all I can say. Not only is that shady as all get out from a marketing perspective, but this also remains a segment of the blogging population that I simply don't understand.

    I don't get a ton of PR pitches, but I decline nearly every single one I get. Even if it's a good cause or event, I'm simply not in the “business” of being a commercial for every company, brand, or even non-profit out there. I write for myself, I write to be authentic. Yes, I have gotten an opportunity or two to be involved in things that I really and truly believe in, and I'm super grateful for that. But unless it's something that I'm raving about to my friends well in advance of getting a PR notice about it, you won't be reading about it on my blog.

    This HFCS nonsense, I totally agree, is at the FAR end of the spectrum, into deceptive and/or manipulative. So distressing.

  10. To quote Mir:
    “On the up side, every single blogger on this tour can now be easily crossed off the list of People I Will Ever Read Or Take Seriously For Even A Moment. So there's that.”

    I thought the same exact thing when I went to look and see who participated.

    I have my belief about HFCS and while I know everyone is entitled to their own belief when it comes to what they give their kids to eat, I found it disturbing that they mostly posted verbatim from the sponsor and some didn't even understand much about the topic.

    I also hated to know that some moms would do this for a gift certificate and that a mom runs the consulting company who set this blog tour up. Yes, I actually did wish it wasn't a parent who set the blog tour up so I could say, well, they don't have children so they don't care to research the statements behind this sponsor.

    A blog tour like this hurts all of us.

  11. I stumbled across this via a link in my twitter feed.

    The relationships between brands and bloggers fascinates me and I've sounded off about it more than once. The question you have to ask yourself is not “Would I use this product?” but “Is this product me? Am I happy to be identified as this product in a creepily literal sense?” Because when you become an advocate for a brand, that's what you're essentially doing. Banner ads are one thing – I think we all know that if you blog on wordpress and (like me) are too tightfisted to pay, ads beyond your control are going to crop up. But when you write about a brand in your blog, you're forming an alliance that isn't so easy to unpick.

    The easiest thing, of course, is to simply not do it, though if you need the money, that's not such a simple answer (and some people do blog to make ends meet). But every time you schill on behalf of Nestle or Pampers or whatever, you're swapping a little bit of your blog's soul (and yours) in exchange for the personality of that brand.

  12. Here's an idea… Get those nice folks to return the gift card and take the posts down. If you don't know what you wrote and don't understand what was said, how can you leave it up and have the CRA continue to benefit?

  13. I'm appalled. But I'm not. But I am. God, it's late 2010 I feel like we should be much beyond this crap by now. I remember when I first saw an HFCS commercial on Bravo a couple years back & thought it was an SNL skit.

    Hopefully your post will be toward the top of the google page.


  14. Liz, as you know from Twitter, I spent yesterday afternoon basically cleaning up the shards of my head from the floor after it exploded when I (also late apparently) heard about this blog tour.

    I'm on the Mom Central mailing list (after attending a lunch there several years ago) and I was trying to scour my brain to remember whether I ever received notice about this tour (I can't scour my trash unfortunately because I empty it regularly).

    Now, I could be wrong here, but I don't recall receiving the message (and I have another uber natural food blogger friend who is on the MC list who also doesn't recall seeing it) — and if that is the case, it suggests that Mom Central intentionally went after bloggers they figured wouldn't put up a fight about the campaign. Which, in my mind, basically screams, “Yeah, we know this is totally shady, but hell, the corn people make a craptastic amount of money and are paying *us* a lot of money!”

    I have turned away a lot of well compensating opportunities (direct from companies or via agencies) because they don't make sense — not only from my editorial POV generally, but also because there is no way in good faith that I could disseminate information about certain topics/products to my readers. I know there were probably (way) bigger bucks in play for Mom Central, but there's a definitive trade-off in respect. And in my humble opinion, respect and integrity is worth more than whatever dollars changed hands here.

    Even if the amount was, you know, enough to buy a corn sugar powered Hummer.


  15. I've done my best to avoid HFCS for years because, to paraphrase Kathy bates' character in the fine movie The Waterboy, HFCS is “the devil.” Seriously, there's no reason for it other than finding a way to subsidize an industry that grows more corn than we need and to keep prices low on products like soda. As for the bloggers, a little research on one's own goes a long way. One doesn't have to be Christiane Amanpour to figure out when someone is trying to sell us a bill of goods.

  16. Full disclosure: In the past, I have publicly discussed my issues with Mom Central's want for ethics (or at the very least, their lack of etiquette). Certainly, there is no love lost and the grapes are fermented.

    My head is spinning on this one, Liz. Thank you for bringing it up. For a blogger to say “this is what we were told” is irresponsible and ultimately, cheapens ALL of our worth. I try to be conscientious in everything that I review, even with a crappy $15 DVD that featured way too much animal sex for my taste. I gave it a bad review and moved on. I haven't been asked to review anything since by that firm, but so be it. I VALUE MY READERS.

    You said it all in this statement:
    “…….I believe we all need to own our words.

    And I do think we have an obligation to understand what we're posting about and who we're advocating for–not just when it's paid, but especially when it's paid.”

  17. This infuriates me on so many levels… from the CRA getting mom bloggers involved to the mom bloggers taking the bait.

    I went and visited these bloggers' posts and they all pretty much sound alike. Luckily, most of them had few to no comments and the comments they DID have were 99% against HFCS. I love that others aren't letting a few silly posts convince them… but I'm afraid for Google to bring up these posts in search engines.

  18. HFCS is gross. Paying taxes so that our government can pay farmers to overproduce cheap, shitty food in stockpiles is grosser. Taking a lame gift certificate so that you can push a shitty policy and shitty product is grossest.

  19. I have so many things I want to write, but I will pick just one. I believe posting positively about or even consuming HFCS is a lack of thoughtfulness. Haven't we yet learned to be thoughtful in all our choices? I don't think an “Oh, I didn't know that.” is acceptable anymore. What you publish on your blog, what you put in your body, what you choose to put in your children's bodies, should all be thoughtful decisions.

  20. This is a wonderful post. I don't recall seeing this email come through my inbox, but I would've taken it out and stomped on it's hilarity and stupidity in a friggin' heartbeat and proclaimed as such had I have seen it.

    This is so much more than just HFCS, this is about promoting fake-bullshit in our foods and hiding it as an educational webinar. As an advocate for all-natural and organic foods myself, I am appalled that the Corn Refiner's Association thinks buying off a few mom bloggers with gift cards to spread their word would be a good idea?

    I am even more-so appalled that it's all about dollar signs for the aforementioned company to even TAKE the campaign in the first place. It appears money is much more-so important to them than America's health.

    It's about taking a stand, people. Would they promote a Red Dye #5 blog tour? Would they support an “Aspartame doesn't cause cancer” blog tour?


  21. Wow, where did they even find these bloggers? Maybe they just read in a very different niche. I can't imagine any of the 'big bloggers' that I sub to in Reader NOT doing their own research and just repeating the party line.

    It's true that HFCS has the same calories as sugar… but that's it. And calorie count is not the only (or even best) measure of nutrients and food ingredients.

    HFCS is like the perfect storm to me… I oppose it for health AND political reasons.

  22. Wow, that last paragraph really chilled me to my bones, Liz. This is the really scariest part of what's going on between bloggers and brands right now…truth and marketing have become so blurred, I don't even think the people hitting the publish button can tell the difference any more.

    Amazing {nauseating} post.

  23. Are you kidding me?

    When I read this quote: “…a lot of technical scientific terms and words that rather confused me, but ….I learned…that there is no significant difference between HFCS and table sugar”

    I did one of those ugly, snorty laughs–you know the ones that are more out of disbelief, shock and disgust than humor.

    Honey, (which is no different from Corn Sugar as I've now learned through highly technical scientific terms I can't wrap my pretty little brain around!) if a PAID REPRESENTATIVE of a brand tells you something using technical terms meant to impress and confuse you, you haven't “learned” anything. You've been brainwashed, and now you're being used as a (likely, poorly-paid) pawn.

    It takes a lot to surprise me these days, but my jaw hit the floor on this one. Not that the companies tried. What amazes me is that the bloggers bought into it and put their ethics and reputations on the line. It would be one thing if they really believed in HFCS and all that it stands for, but judging by that quote I'm guessing that isn't the case.

    Maybe I'm just more skeptical than the average mom. Like Steph, I was so incredulous when the original “HFCS is just like sugar!” commercials came out, I thought they were parodies.

  24. I don't think to write about a product or campaign is to endorse it, but if you just repeat what marketers say to you without any critical reasoning attached, then, yes, you are endorsing.

    I reviewed a book a while back that offered medical advice for kids with autism that I thought was not just bad, but dangerous. I wrote about the book, but that does not constitute an endorsement, because I applied critical thinking to it and said, in no uncertain terms that I believed the book to be dangerous and didn't recommend it.

    I checked out what some of the other blogs who were also reviewing the book were saying and most of them had just published the press release. I doubt they even read it. I think that constitutes an endorsement. And not just an endorsement, but an unthinking endorsement, which is much worse. (After all, if you actually do believe/advocate for what they are saying(and can back up your opinions), that is okay—even if the rest of us think you're wrong.)

    Whenever I agree to review a product on my review blog, I email the company and let them know that I cannot guarantee a positive review. I write my opinion—good or bad. And then I do.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with participating in a blog tour about HFCS—in fact, I wish more skeptics had, so as to balance out the coverage—but it is important that participants write honestly and critically about it. To do otherwise is lazy, dishonest, and bad reporting/blogging.

  25. Christine (Boston Mamas) – I do get the mailing list and did receive the campaign. I have to admit feeling so let down that this was happening. In fact it saddened me no end to feel that we use our power for this sort of thing. It also made me make an important decision to not have a group button on my site which may represent projects I don't believe in and cannot control. I do recall it was a bigger amount promised than usual and smirked that they would have to do that for someone to promote them. I could not imagine, no matter how I may need any money, wanting to promote something that disgusts me so much.

    Another point, is that I was again disappointed to find that a conference I had pulled out of speaking (I pulled out for separate personal reasons) also had them listed as a sponsor. I understand money is money but as moms and parents I would hope we would start drawing the line somewhere.

    Again last week I found out that there was a campaign to change the name of HFCS – makes me ill – do they think we are stupid? Or should I not speak on behalf of everyone?

  26. Great post. I couldn't think of a snarky, sarcastic thing to say if I tried…

    Go get 'em, tiger, you know we all got your back!

  27. To be honest, by itself, HFCS doesn't concern me a whole lot. I try to keep it to a reasonable minimum in our diets, but frankly I don't search it out. Given the choice I know it's healthier to eat something natural rather than HFCS, but it's not at the front of my food buying decisions.

    What DOES concern me is the amount of money being spent to convince me HFCS is okay. THAT makes me feel like it's not okay and they're trying to shove it down my throat. Kind of like when a candidate spends millions and millions of dollars of their own money to get elected. Really? You want it that badly? That throws up red flags right there, when you'd rather spend money on advertising rather than doing it “the old fashioned way” and earning it.

    Enough typing. Time to go eat twinkies and a coke. 😉

  28. Like others I am dismayed that anyone would just write a whole hearted endorsement of HFCS after being shown “educational” materials which were apparently so technical they might be confusing. Sadly I don't think many bloggers realize that's what they are doing, and they may not realize they are being exploited by a lobbying group with millions of dollars that could be better spent on putting real food into our kid's mouths.

    I do not receive pitches from the consulting company who ran the campaign but as my friend Mindi Cherry pointed out to me the same company recently ran a blog tour for the a reformulated ketchup without HFCS. Clearly they are all about making money and using their network to promote whoever is paying them the most.

  29. I'm furious about this too, Liz. I'm furious at the Corn Refiners for trying to mislead people. I'm furious at Mom Central for agreeing to work on such a disgusting campaign. I'm furious at the bloggers for not doing a tiny bit of their own research.

    Last year as the whole Nestle Family thing was debated and discussed on my blog, the one key message I kept hammering home to those who claimed they had no idea about Nestle's unethical practices before accepting the trip, is that it wouldn't have taken more than 60 seconds of Googling to find out that they are one of the most criticized and boycotted companies in the world.

    The same holds true on this one. If those bloggers had spent two minutes on this before agreeing to be part of it, they would have realized that there is another side to the story. That should have been a red flag enough for them to either turn it down (the fastest and easiest thing to do) or at least do more research before accepting.

    I wish I'd known about this earlier. I would have written an open letter to the “corn sugar” bloggers like the one I did to the Nestle Family bloggers last year, encouraging them to at least ask the tough questions while they are there and to take everything they hear with a grain of salt.

    I will be writing about this too, but am taking my time to ensure that I fill it with the best facts and research available and that I SEO the hell out of the post to ensure that it is what people find (instead of the garbage pumped out this week).

    Thanks for this Liz.

  30. What makes me the most sad – beyond the blogging issue – is that this rebranding of HFCS as “corn sugar” will probably work. Between the commercials I've been seeing, the one that make anti-HFCS facts sound like health-nut propaganda, and the fact that you have to make SUCH a tremendous effort to find any food without HFCS, its hard to imagine that the majority of Americans will catch on to what is happening to their health.
    Excellent post, Liz. Thanks.

  31. I think the HFCS debate is a great example of the evolution of publishing tactics during the “Information Revolution”.

    When you're a corporation fighting a battle for brand/commodity/company supremacy, your first weapon is information.

    However, your backup weapon is misinformation, and it's used when science creates an unfortunate truth that can only be countered by politics and marketing.

    And now that information is so freely available, companies are doing all they can to create subversive and tainted content to sway the minds of influential people who will help them disseminate the type of web content most beneficial for their self-interests.

  32. How come I wasn't invited to the blog tour? HA!

    Okay. Seriously. I'm not sure how to write this delicately. And the baby won't nap this morning, so I'm rushing and will probably offend people. If I do, I'm truly sorry. I don't meant to be disrespectful, BUT…

    I'm dumbfounded by the idea of blogging about HFCS. Back up… let's assume that you truly believe it's an acceptable ingredient. That means we disagree and you have a right to blog about what you believe. Fine. (Although, I'd have to argue that anyone who believes it's an acceptable ingredient is unfathomably misinformed.)

    But, now, what about folks who are unsure or who don't know about HFCS… WHY would they knowingly blog about a controversial ingredient without being informed or having a strong POV?!

    If you want to raise your voice in a community–which is what you do when you start a blog, no matter how small–you have to take responsibility for that.

    And, while all the other players bear responsibility for this debacle of a blog tour, I think personal responsibility is the bottom line. Especially as a family food blogger–you actively encourage people to make and eat certain foods. You actively encourage them to feed these foods to their children. Please, food bloggers, be more thoughtful about that.

  33. You already know how I feel – heck, I wrote a whole series of posts about HFCS a couple years ago. But I think the Muskrat summed it up best for me.

    Thanks for writing about this in such an even-handed, multi-faceted way.

  34. Wow, great post.

    I especially like this part about a High Fructose Corn Syrup Tree.

    Now, I'm like you and love my soda so I'm kinda a hypocrite on the subject, but you can't claim something is just the same as natural sugar when it's just not.

    Maybe in their “tutoriual” about HFCS they should've shown how it was made and maybe the bloggers would've been more informed…. or not.

    Who knows.

    But it's a great post, thanks for sharing it with us.

  35. When CRA changed the name from HFCS to “corn sugar” earlier this year, I knew something was up. It smelled of bad PR from the start (

    I just didn't know that it would be this. As I mentioned in my tweet this morning, and to echo Boston Mamas' sentiment, you will notice, very clearly, that the campaign did not target food bloggers. Because a food blogger would never list HFCS as a substitute for sugar when baking cookies. It's not the same. (I've written about this in the past too, as you know.)

    Also, the fact that a mere gift certificate would be enough inducement for a blogger to write about a topic that she admittedly doesn't understand well enough to articulate outside of the big corporate talking points infuriates me.

    Mom bloggers – we are a freaking marketers dream. We're turning into those wind up dolls where we just spew out whatever someone tells us because they push the right button. They give us money. We post what they want us to say.

    We keep spinning this wheel of credibility, authenticity, full disclosure and we keep landing on “bankrupt.” Stacy of MC surely was smart enough to know that people would fall for the gift cert instead of thinking about the end-game of this promotion – it doesn't bring jackpot for anyone in the long run. Except for those food bloggers who get to keep their credibility.

  36. Ooooh, I sort of wish they had invited me. I do understand “science-y language,” you see. And I know a lot about food. In fact, I write these articles about sustainable food at Care2, like, once a week, so I have to research science-y thingies on food ALL THE TIME. I could have written SUCH a detailed analysis of their claims.

    Which is, I'm sure, why they didn't invite me.

    (Well, that and the fact that my poor neglected mommyblog has an audience of, like, five, and I do practically no paid advertising there.)

  37. Liz, Nate may well be your agro-idealism hero but you are my “snark'em till they wake-up to the dawn of the era of responsibility” hero and I adore you!

  38. “The professional speakers used a lot of technical scientific terms and words that rather confused me, but ultimately the important message I learned from them is that there is no significant difference between HFCS and table sugar.”

    wow. just… wow.

    this is the reason i don't participate in many reviews. i'm not going to promote things i don't like or understand or things that aren't valuable to my readers. it's part of trying to be as genuine and honest as possible. my integrity is worth more than a gift card.

  39. Oh, fer the love…

    I wrote out a huge comment and it didn't go through. *bang head, weep*

    Here we go again.

    I am generally anti-HFCS, can't imagine blogging about something without doing research, and think the HFCS PR campaign is 100 different kinds of shady.

    That said, I don't think it's all that different from other campaigns.

    A few years ago, a bunch of bloggers went on a tour of (I think) a Pampers factory. Following that, the internet was treated to a bunch of posts from trusted bloggers about how environmentally friendly Pampers are. Look! You can eat them! Anyone who has done even a smidge of research into disposable vs. cloth knew they were full of crap, sorry about the unintended pun. And if anyone asked about it, the response was, “Look, I'm no diaper expert. This was just what I was told.” But there was no shirt-rending and hair-tearing over it.

    Why the difference? Because HFCS is a hot topic right now. That's the only reason for the outrage.

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't be bothered. I am bothered. But I am consistently bothered by these blurred-lines campaigns, not just when the topic is a trendy one. So if we want to talk about it, let's talk about it broadly and not just string up these particular bloggers as dumb and irresponsible. There's a bigger conversation here. Let's look at it.

  40. I'm not a mom, but this enrages me nontheless. I've been railing against HFCS and corn subsidies since I was in high school, and I just don't understand how 15 years later, our society is still relatively clueless (or willfully ignorant) about this issue.

    Even if HFCS is the “same” as table sugar on a molecular level, table sugar is also processed and not exactly healthy. In fact, last year the American Heart Association lowered their recommendations for maximum consumption of table sugar/added sugars, and those recommendations are scary low ( Why scary? Because as others have mentioned, it takes a LOT of hard work to find products not loaded with HFCS or other added sugars. Per the AHA, I should consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day. Many “whole wheat” breads contain 2-4 grams of sugar per slice. So my healthy sandwich already has up to a quarter of my daily sugar allowance, assuming I don't put mustard or mayo on it, which, again, asssuming I use a typical store brand, will add another 2-4 grams. Extrapolate this example over a typical day, and you can see how quickly those grams add up.

    It is ridiculously irresponsible for the CRA to market HFCS as harmless, and for bloggers to endorse them without the facts.

  41. I commend all the moms who feel that they couldn't do this sort of blog tour. You should only do what you are comfortable with and what you believe in.

    I believe in the scientific process. I don't believe in hype, and I sure don't believe everything I read on blog comment pages.

    Full Disclosure: I'm a registered dietitian and consultant to the Corn Refiner's Association. I would not have decided to work with the CRA had I felt any reservation about HFCS or the industry. I like our American food industry.

    I also live in a rural town and know farmers – Responsible, hard-working farmers.

    What gets me is that folks are so cynical (and Michael Pollan has helped drive this cynicism) about the farming industry. The information is presented as if there are no responsible, moral people at all in the farming or food industries. I think that there are.

    I view many aspects of food processing as progress. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and I don't think I want to go back to the days where I have to chop the head off a chicken before dinnertime, and find time to bake bread every other day (by the way- we need sugar in bread because it feeds the yeast – otherwise it wouldn't rise).

    When you hear, “HFCS is just like sugar”, it's a simplified way to explain that HFCS is metabolized like cane sugar is metabolized. That's just how our body works.

    When a blogger quoted “…a lot of technical scientific terms and words that rather confused me…” this was not the intention. The intention was to educate the moms/consumers about the facts. And the facts in this case are all about science.

    Sure we should do our best to feed our children a healthy diet. (Personally, we plant a garden, we even have our own chickens:) Yummy eggs. And we make sure our kids are very physically active). But I also purchase some processed treats (in addition to bags of apples, bananas, carrots, greens, grapes, berries, milk, yogurt, fresh meats from the local butcher, etc).

    This is the deal: it comes down to choices and behaviors. HFCS serves a purpose for the food industry, is safe, and does not “cause obesity”. It does matter, to a lot of people, that some foods are made affordable.

    You can make your own choice, and hopefully it balances out – good nutrition at all meals, proper portions, exercise, serving milk with meals, not soda pop…But a few cookies and chocolates thrown in won't hurt.

    Another non-biased view to consider:

    Rosanne Rust

  42. Thanks for the comment (twice!) Alias Mother.

    Can't speak for anyone else's outrage, but I actually do think that this is a lot different than the Pampers example. That, from what I can tell, was a brand taking you on a tour of their factory and telling you good things about their products. You know you're at P&G.

    In this case, a lobbying group is disseminating misinformation and half truths that are hurting our children, through doctors who are paid consultants (but not disclosing that fact), and calling it “an educational campaign about sugar.”

    While I agree there are always similarities in how PR works, I find the CRA example far more predatory.

  43. @Roseanne

    thanks for a thoughtful comment and for disclosing your relationship with the CSA.

    No one here is saying that “there are no responsible, moral people at all in the farming or food industries.”

    I would be the LAST person to make that claim.

    I am also the last person to say that cookies and chocolate should be stricken from the diet. This isn't a debate about sugar overall. Although yes, we need to eat less of it as a nation.

    A few main points are:
    1) Unprocessed foods are nutritionally preferable to processed foods
    2) HFCS is being called natural despite the fact that it's not.
    3) Bloggers were lured with gift certificates to write about a controversial topic without being coached how to think critically about it or being offered opposing points of view.

    It is hard to just “make our own choices,” as you say, when so many products are laden with HFCS not all of which are labeled. There's no ingredient list next to every McDonald's menu item when you walk up to the counter.

    Lastly, in defense of cynics: Cynics are good. Cynics help shed light on issues that need fixing. They rarely do it maliciously.

    I know: The biggest cynic on the planet is the father of my two kids.

  44. “… and find time to bake bread every other day (by the way- we need sugar in bread because it feeds the yeast – otherwise it wouldn't rise)”


    Yeast, including that found naturally in the air, as in sourdough, survive and propegate just fine on the carbohydrates in fresh whole grain flour, without any added sugar. Which, by the way, I use every other day to make my bread. From scratch. Even though I work full time. Because I can't find a loaf of commerically made bread that (a) tastes as good as my non-sugar/non corn-sugar added loaf does and (b) because I can't find a loaf of
    non-sugar/non corn-sugar added bread on my store's shelves.

    Being “troubled” to do it is something I take on for the betterment of health, and your comment does little more than ring of the same promotional hype the HCFS industry has been using form the start.

  45. I'm in a really bad mood. I should probably wait until I'm happier to comment, but here goes: Boo, hiss on HFCS for trying to fool moms about the true nature of “corn sugar.”

    And although I loved Type-A Mom and I think Kelby Carr did an excellent job with that conference, I was disturbed to find a water bottle in my bag with a big corn sugar logo on it. I hate throwing things out. Maybe I'll turn it into a planter, instead.

    Clearly, the HFCS lobby has targeted us an easy mark. But for the love…really? Women who spend their free time writing aren't the teensiest bit informed about this widely publicized frankenfood? Aren't we smarter than this? There have been so many films, articles and exposes about HFCS in recent years, I can't imagine anyone not having heard something about there being an itty-bitty problem there.

  46. this is what bothers me so much about brands and blogging–there are enough bloggers out there just trying to make a buck that they'll pretty much say anything for compensation, even if they don't know what they're talking about. That makes the whole community look bad, and totally detracts from those moms who truly do their due diligence when researching a product to endorse or write about.

    I'll stick to telling stories about my cute kid and be happy with my 10 readers. LOL

  47. Good, bad…or indifferent; we all get to choose how we feel about HFCS. I haven't made it a personal mission of mine to fight it's use since I get to choose for myself and my family what we put on the table and sometimes that's all you can control.

    What I take offense with is the notion that there was a blogger tour and that poor bloggers were taken advantage of to promote this product on their blogs.

    Give me a break. This seems pretty simple to me. If I'm asked to promote a product, than I am in fact a spokesperson of sorts. How in the hell do you agree to a tour, take any kind of compensation and then come back with a wide eyed 'I didn't know what it was or what I was doing' stance.

    Not even prostitutes are that dumb.

  48. Ms. Rust:
    HFCS serves a purpose for the food industry

    Well, yes. Exactly. And the purpose is to have cheap sweetener to make lower quality food taste better. NOT to increase nutrition or make a healthier product (which is actually the purpose of food).

    “is safe” is a matter of opinion. What about mercury in HFCS, as reported by the Washington Times? What about the link to liver scarring found by Duke University? What about

    I don't think I want to go back to the days where I have to chop the head off a chicken before dinnertime, and find time to bake bread every other day (by the way- we need sugar in bread because it feeds the yeast – otherwise it wouldn't rise).

    Does not cause obesity? Really, because the information I have is that HFCS (specifically) hasn't even been studied in relation to obesity. I would love to see an independent study showing no correlation between HFCS and obesity, please send me the link if you know of one. It's a little premature to say it doesn't cause obesity – when it hasn't been explicitly studied.

    But this argument isn't about whether or not sweeteners have a place, in moderation, in the diet. It's not about eating only unprocessed foods. It's about the highly processed artificially created sweetener HFCS which is subsized with tax dollars and made in a lab through enzymatic manipulation.

    Hmmm think I feel my own post on this coming on.

  49. @Roseanne – you call it cynicism. I call it skepticism and critical thinking. We don't buy every line that's fed to us just because it comes from a so-called expert – particularly one with a financial interest in convincing us of their stance.

  50. i just reviewed a movie and did research on it. for a movie!

    you'd better believe i'm gonna go read up on the scientifically-modified food i put in my body if someone asked me to review said scientifically-modified food. it seems that some people may not realize that they are allowed to dislike something even if it was given to them for free or they were paid for their time.

  51. Well, wait, are we talking about the campaign or are we talking about the bloggers?

    I think you are mostly talking about the campaign, in which case your point is valid. I can see the difference you are pointing out, though I don't think it's a huge difference. I mean, all the lobbyists were doing, all every lobbyist does actually, is tell you “good things about their products.” Where product = paid cause.

    But a lot of these comments bash the bloggers. In which case I'm going need them to tell me how this is different. It's bloggers parroting information they were given. Why is this so much worse?

  52. I'd hate to be MomCentral today. I actually haven't seen their reaction, because I stopped following them a while back when I realized every tweet was marketing a brand via giveaway or some such other tactic. I realized it wasn't for me.

    What kills me is the idea that anyone would think people would be fooled by rebranding HFCS as “corn sugar”. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the meeting where they came up with THAT idea.

  53. Wow Liz, you put it in better words than I could have ever. When I saw the posts I couldn't believe it. We as moms who blog get asked to post about a lot of things. For me this was way beyond brand promotions. This was straight up interest group using mom bloggers.

    I'm so glad someone else actually did a post to, this is just wrong. I'm not wanting to pick a fight with the bloggers who did the tour, but to let them know. The CRA SHOULD NOT be within our blogs. It's sick how much money is spent trying to convince us that it's okay. Just sick!

    And now they use the moms who do have respectable blogs to actually say it's okay. Did you read some of the posts I linked to? Wow!

    BTW thanks for the linkback, totally awesome of you Liz!

  54. FYI, your link to the advertorial is a 404 Not Found. Not sure if this was mistaken, or if Mom Central took it down.

  55. I really think the big problem here is bloggers, not HFCS. As soon as blogging got to be a way to make money, these types of things were going to start happening.

    Is HFCS good for you? I doubt it, neither is sugar very good for you. We all have the knowledge available at our fingertips to make good nutritional choices for ourselves and our families. I know so many people who talk about nutrition who are also hooked on soda…come on, really? Walk the walk or lose the outrage.

    I personally would not be able to take anyone seriously who #1, accepted an invitation to a presentation about HFCS, and #2, wrote about how good it is on their blog. I'd know they're just trying to make a buck spouting crap about crap. It wouldn't enrage me, I just wouldn't feel they were someone I had much in common with because they don't take the same things seriously that I do.

    But I eat sugar, and even though it's raw sugar, my body still processes it the way it processes other sugar…probably even HFCS. I do look at foods to see if they have HFCS in them, and 90% of the time can find brands that don't. If we want to slap down the CRA, that's the way to do it…stop buying food that contains HFCS. And write to your congressmen and senators about the bills that get passed for the farm industry.

    Otherwise, this is all just a tempest in a tiny little teapot.

  56. This makes my head explode. Thank god there are well though out essays like yours, because if I were to respond to this, it would just be expletives laced with the odd punctuation mark.

  57. Oh and Liz they got $100 to WALMARt for the tour, and it doesn't surprise me that Mom Central took down the post. Lats year she along with Bayer and Mirena got in trouble for FTC issues (it's all online) for a Mirena blog tour, saying that the IUD “created better intimacy, and sex creating a better emotional connection) Which if you've has an IUD you know how nightmarish it has been for so many women, including myself.

    So this isn't Mom Central's first round with the FTC and I hope her “advertorial content” was taken down. I thought her disclaimer was for the ads below, I had no idea what was going on with the post.

    Mom Central is out to make money, doesn't matter who it was from. Which is fine, it's just good to know.

  58. I will be honest. I am not a label reader. I am certain I eat HFCS every day, and probably more than I should. In general, I try not to give my son much of anything that contains sugar, but I know he gets HFCS too.

    I also like bacon. I think it's delicious. I like it on sandwiches, I like it alone, I like it with pretty much anything. I could write a lengthy blog post about how delicious and awesome I think bacon is, and I would mean every word. I am a huge bacon fan.

    However, if the pork board came to me and offered me a gift certificate to blog about why bacon is heart healthy, I just couldn't do it. Because bacon is not heart healthy. It is fattening and high in sodium and a million other things I don't want to think about when I go to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. Even if they offered me a lifetime supply of bacon, I couldn't in good faith write such a review.

    We also have to remember that just as some bloggers will say anything you want in return for a gift certificate, there are also professionals who will make a claim about a product for the right price. There might even be a cardiologist out there who would claim bacon is good for your heart. That doesn't make it true. That's why it's important to look at a wide variety of information, and always consider your source before forming an opinion.

  59. Mom For Less, you nailed it.

    “I also like bacon. I think it's delicious. I like it on sandwiches, I like it alone, I like it with pretty much anything. I could write a lengthy blog post about how delicious and awesome I think bacon is, and I would mean every word. I am a huge bacon fan.

    However, if the pork board came to me and offered me a gift certificate to blog about why bacon is heart healthy, I just couldn't do it. Because bacon is not heart healthy.”

    YES YES YES. You can say (for free or for pay) that you LIKE a product or USE a product without making FALSE CLAIMS about a product (or allowing a corporation to make false claims THROUGH you).

    I'll tell the world I love me a Hostess cupcake as a very occasional treat, but no way would I say Hostess cupcakes are good for you. One is the truth, one is not.

  60. OK, so I understand the outrage, the misleading “information” and moms just taking the bait without checking. I wouldn't have taken the opportunity either.

    However, I think we should save the moral sanctimony. Some people just don't have the same view about issues we each might care about. Do you want to dispel the faulty information? Organize your own blog tour presenting the other side of the argument, so the Google results will be more balanced. Attacking people personally for what you believe is their mistake only makes YOU feel better.

    Also, think about some of the things you promote which may have conflicting evidence. Do you honestly always do thorough research on the opposing view?

    For example, how many bloggers encourage the use of CFL light bulbs to help save the environment? Do you know that they are not manufactured in the US? They are manufactured in China where there are lax hazardous waste laws (mercury) and most likely dirty coal powered plants. And thousands of workers just lost their jobs in my state because incandescents are soon to be outlawed.

    My point is that issues can be fuzzy sometimes, and we make mistakes. Express your opinion about the issues, but stop attacking other bloggers! PLEASE!

  61. While I do often participate in Mom Central campaigns, I didn't apply to be a apart of this one. The truth is, I don't know enough about HFCS to have an opinion on it either way. If I were going to write about a topic like this, I need unbiased information, which this campaign certainly didn't offer.

  62. @ Mom 101
    Great feedback.
    I know it's not easy. I'm raising 3 busy, active, boys, and I agree with your points- non-processed foods are definitely better than processed ones!

    But I have to work within the reality of my clients – lots of different folks. So some processed foods DO enter the picture (even in my own busy life), and there can be balance.

    My comment about farming was not posed to this post, but to the many background messages out there that portray the corn industry as an environmental disaster.

    HFCS clearly generates a lot of emotion.

    @ Milehimama @ Mama:
    Having worked with clients in many clinical settings I can say that obesity is a difficult and complex issue that involves behavior as much as specific food intake. One food ingredient certainly is not the sole culprit, as has been implied in popular press in the past.

    Finally, @Beth – It's wonderful that you bake bread. There is no question it tastes better than anything you can buy!! But while you choose to omit the sugar, most traditional (old) recipes include about 1TB per loaf for the purpose of quickening the proofing process. Yes, the yeast can proof with the sugars it will glean from the flour alone, but 1TB sugar per loaf isn't all that much, and people have been baking bread that way for a long time.

  63. I don't have time to read all the comments, and I won't bore y'all with my thoughts on this, which I've posted here before. (For the record, I am a scientist but not in any way shape or form connected with the food industry, except as a consumer. If you're really curious what I think, you can go to my blog and search on HFCS.)

    But I have to refer you and your readers to Marion Nestle's very sane, scientifically solid thoughts on HFCS:

    She is certainly not in bed with the big food companies. She is one of their most well-known and outspoken critics.

    But she says what I always say when people are saying that we should all cut HFCS from our diet: Fine, do it. You'll be healthier…. as long as you don't just replace it with sucrose. Because really, the problem in our diets is the amount of refined sugar, regardless of what plant it is refined from.

    Incidentally, I think the sugar content of our foods went up during the low fat craze. If you take the fat out, you have to add more sugar to make it taste good. I wonder if the reverse will happen now, and we'll end up with foods higher in fat again? Because thanks to the Atkins craze, fat has been rehabilitated.

    I'm sorry if I come across as snarky, but it kills me to watch us do the same stupid things over and over and then wonder why we keep getting fatter.

  64. I do not like the idea of HFCS but I still drink coke and eat Oreos (although not at the same time). That's because I think the artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are far more dangerous than sugar or HFCS, but that's me.

    When I eat HFCS, I know it is CRAP. So I guess I'm for the right to choose crap, as long as you know full well it is crap and not something deemed natural or less dangerous by a lobbying group with a clever PR campaign.

  65. It's this kind of thing that makes me embarrassed to be viewed as a mommy blogger. Everything about it: the rolling out of a 'tour' that uses such bloggers as mouthpieces for disseminating misinformation, the unthinking participation in such a tour, the unthinking participation in such a tour for GIFT CERTIFICATES, everything.

    This reflects on all of us, and it reflects badly. Thank you, Liz, for making it clear that this does NOT represent what most of us are doing.

  66. @Rosanne – I want to point out that in your first comment you said, “by the way- we need sugar in bread because it feeds the yeast – otherwise it wouldn't rise…”

    Yet in your second comment, you said, “Yes, the yeast can proof with the sugars it will glean from the flour alone, but 1TB sugar per loaf isn't all that much…”

    Those are two contradictory sentences. That first statement is the kind of mis-stating the facts that many of us are so bothered by. You basically lied and then are blowing it off by saying it “isn't all that much” which is besides the point. How can we believe the other “information” that you and other representatives of the CRA say?

    For example, I can't believe what you say when you wrote, “it's a simplified way to explain that HFCS is metabolized like cane sugar is metabolized. That's just how our body works.”

    Because I've also read this study and a few articles about another study (like this one) which call into question the fact that HFCS and table sugar is metabolized the same.

  67. I'm a college student majoring in nutrition. I am in a biochemistry and metabolism class, and just this morning, my professor discussed how fructose bypasses a regulatory step in the metabolism process. That is part of the reason all that energy is easily turned into adipose tissue (fat). While he didn't go into details (we were mainly discussing the thermodyanimcs involved in biochemisty), we are going to get into it when we start to learn that pathway.

    My food chemistry professor discussed why HFCS is added to foods just yesterday. It's a) super cheap, b) super sweet (so you need less of it), and c) it helps keep foods moist. (BTW, fructose in amounts found in fruits, etc. isn't going to wreck anyone's diet.) She also mentioned HFCS' dirty little secret of its metabolism.

    So why does the industry keep insisting it's just the same as sucrose (table sugar)? A quick search on Google Scholar will show you that it's not. While sucrose is a disaccharide composed of one glucose unit and one fructose unit, it is less sweet than HFCS, less hygroscopic (water-attracting), and doesn't seem to have the same metabolic issues.

    As an aside, the naming of sugars is VERY TRICKY. “Corn sugar” used to be a name for GLUCOSE. Now, the manufacturers try to use “corn sugar” for HFCS, when HFCS is about half fructose and half glucose (there are a few different varieties). NOT THE SAME THING. Glucose is glucose is glucose, no matter where it comes from. Glucose is what our brains and bodies run on!

    That's me reining it in. That tactic is so knowingly gaming the system that it just sickens me. And I'm not surprised to see the source. That's some dirty unsexy money.

    HFCS causes such behavorial changes in my kids that it's been banned for 8 yeras in my house. We order little packets of organic ketchup to take to chick-fil-a with us. We buy Mexican coke at Costco because Ay yi yo, sometimes Mommy just needs a Cocola. It infuriates me when I see “all natural” on a label, read it, and see HFCS- which is a perfectly valid labelling technique, since the FDA is a nancy girl regulatory body.

    Read the clause that governs all food additives- it's called the Delaney Clause, and it was instituted in the 70s. It states that “food additives cannot cause cancer”.
    That's it.

    That's the rule.

    So we lost 30+ food dyes that were then found to cause cancer, and the 7 we have left are the ones that killed rats for other reasons- but the rats TOTALLY were cancer free! Yeahhh red #40!!

    My oldest son tested on the Autism spectrum until age 5 when we removed all dyes and HFCS from his diet. 8 years later, he's been off the spectrum, off all meds, and HAPPY. I'm not saying that will work for every child, as sadly, I know all too well it won't. But my god, these petroleum products weren't in our food supply in this volume 35 years ago, and look at how the landscape has changed.

    Also: King Corn is a great movie about the corn subsidy issue and HFCS in general. Also?

    GAH. That is all. Thanks, mama.

  69. That's why I posted comments on the HFCS blog carnival posts, even though I was weeks late to the ticket.

    #1 I want the CRA to know the average consumer just may be smarter than they think. We aren't all swallowing the info.

    #2 I want anyone who stumbles across the post to stop and question what they are reading.

    #3 I just like to throw around my opinion sometimes.

  70. I view this in kind of a hierarchy: better honey or raw sugar than white sugar, better white sugar than hfcs, better ANYTHING than nutrasweet, saccharine, splenda, etc.

    That said, I have no interest in people who can be bought and I avoid blogs that do paid reviews no matter who they do them for.

  71. This is quite a flurry of opinions. Like Roseanne Rust, I’m a registered dietitian, and I have another perspective. Anyone considering spokesperson work must first learn the facts. For instance, food companies replaced high-fructose corn syrup in products due to consumer pressure. That pressure was a result of some nutrition faddists and media who demonized the ingredient. Consumers were misled into thinking that sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup, which is simply a kind of sugar.

    Like sugar or honey, high fructose corn syrup has calories. Excessive calories, from whatever source, can promote weight gain. But replacing high fructose corn syrup with sugar will not reduce obesity or improve health. They are nutritionally the same.

    A sugar is a sugar, whether it’s honey, high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, or fruit juices. You shouldn’t eat too much of any sugar.

    As a consultant to the food industry (like the Corn Refiners Association), and a college professor I use science to carry messages. Facts like those above are one illustration. Let’s learn the facts, stop demonizing foods, then decide for whom we choose to work. Pat B. MA, RD

  72. @caramama
    You're right, it was a contradiction in the initial way I explained why sugar is indeed added to bread, even if you are baking it yourself at home (but this question is often posed to me: 'Why do we need to add sugar to….bread, catsup, etc?').

    I didn't mean to be contradictory, in my case, my mother taught me to bake bread using a recipe that included a spoon of sugar, so that's my reference point. Most published bread recipes include a small amount of some sort of sugar for the reason I stated.

    RE: the fructose study, there are major flaws there – they assume HFCS has increased the fructose in the American diet (when in fact it is no higher in fructose than the sugar it replaces – this is the problem with the name 'high fructose corn syrup' – it's been misleading consumers to believe it's high in fructose), yet the study used pure fructose, so conclusions can't be drawn regarding HFCS.

    RE: metabolism –

  73. I think we should support farmers even more – by every community buying locally grown fresh food. It all comes down to how much foods are processed. It would be great to start an initiative where local communities promise to buy “real” food grown at farms – so farmers will get lots of local business. All of this even inspired me more to place my order for regular deliveries from a local organic farm. Here's hoping that parents across America are placing their orders as well!

    Oh – and as I commented earlier – bloggers need to just understand what they are promoting.. I mean, come on!

  74. Thank you for this post, was totally unaware. I was upset enough when they hired actresses that looked like moms for a commercial…”but corn is natural!” I walked through the momcentral suite at Blogher, would not eat or serve any of that stuff in there, much less write about it. It's true that if you occasionally eat HFCS you will probably be okay, but it's the whole fricken industry and all it's implications. I'm still wondering while Ovaltine, which does not have HFCS, does have blue dye.

  75. I don't see this as attacking these bloggers personally, but if you choose to use your blog as a business to make money, realize you will likely lose readers if you become a spokeperson for something like this.

    It's a really complex issue…just like it's true HFCS is not the sole cause of the obesity epidemic (duh!) neither is it a good thing just because it is “seen by your body same as sugar or honey” or “natural”

  76. @Rosanne – I don't exactly mean to pick on you, but you are exemplifying the issue I have with experts as PR agents, from the tone of your comments as an expert and the over-simplifying of “facts” which you write as 100% accurate by leaving out other facts that don't support your argument.

    In my research, I have generally found that “table sugar” has 50% fructose and HFCS has 55% fructose. Although those are very close, that is not exactly “no higher in fructose than the sugar it replaces” as you say.

    We are smart people, and I feel like you aren't treating us as such. We can understand that a 5% difference probably doesn't make much of a difference, but don't tell us there is “in fact” no difference. It's that type of talking down to us that I find so frustrating and the omissions of details that I find untrust-worthy.

  77. Thank you for taking this on. I couldn't even find words when I first read about this campaign, and then I wasn't going to write about it because I didn't want to reward them with more ink. But what you said about people googling for more information about HFCS scares me — that people will find these posts spitting out “facts” from “experts.” Oy. Maybe it's time for a real sugar baking blog tour. Let me contact Domino and see how much they'll pay…. (kidding)

    I do find it interesting that they apparently targeted general mommy bloggers and not food bloggers. I guess they assumed those of us who pay attention to ingredients might not be so gullible.

  78. This troubles me. Not that every blogger has got to be a trained reporter, but if you're putting yourself out there, isn't it just plain proper to notice the bias in these endorsements? This is the quandry with the Internet – we need to be very careful about knowing where the information comes from.

  79. If you like HFCS, use it in that next batch of cookies you make, or use it in your coffee or cereal.

    Not the same. Corn Syrup can be made to be any sweetness, based on when they decide to halt the chemical reaction. Longer it sits, more it sweetens.

    There is soo much info out there, but if we dont look it may be easier to take someones word.

    How to make Corn syrup:

  80. I'm an autism website. I passed on that blog tour because most of my readers are against high fructose, and I do my best not buy products with it, unless I have to. Although I believe that it is fine in moderation, autistic children tend to be super sensitive to preservatives, additives, etc..
    I've read a couple of the posts on this tour. I think they were well written, and the authors were honest in what they presented. In the end, it is up to the reader to decide what how they feel about high fructose sugar.

  81. I love this post! Well said.

    I agree that if they really wanted to provide a balanced review they would have offered both sides of the coin. Show the cons also and let the bloggers share what they learned.

    Instead you have a group of bloggers who have blindly sold their souls to the HFCS devil.

  82. Molecules are soemthing to not always be be played with then used. They can have dire effects…

    Info on how isomers can cause problems. This is something I picked up in a organic chemistry class and thought it was very interesting. Some info below:

  83. It's difficult to know where to start… I am a registered dietitian at a large teaching hospital. I also work as a consultant for the CRA and do so proudly and with integrity. I would not work on behalf of anyone if I felt that I could not do so ethically and with scientific backing. It may interest some to know that the American Dietetic Assoc and the American Medical Assoc agree that HFCS poses no health threats. After consulting numerous health experts – colleagues whom I trust – and a thorough, unbiased review of the literature, some facts regarding HFCS are apparent:

    1. Replacing HFCS with sugar or other sweeteners does nothing to improve the nutritional content of the food. Rather this tyoe of marketing creates a “health halo,” which ironically may lead to increased consumption of added sugars and obesity.
    2. HFCS and sugar contain the same amount of calories and sweeteness.
    3. HFCS and sugar are metabolized via the same pathways. Fructose injested without ANY OTHER SOURCE OF CALORIES is in fact metabolized differently. However, HFCS is either 42% fructose or 55% fructose; the rest is mainly glucose. Therefore studies that just look at fructose consumption cannot be applied to HFCS. By the way, no one would ever eat JUST fructose or HFCS for that matter – these studies are typically done in rats. In real life, one must consider the metabolism of the meal or food as a whole.
    4. HFCS does not cause obesity. We already know what causes obesity! Eating too much and not moving enough. There is no magic “fat pill” just as there is no magic “skinny pill.”
    5. HFCS is added to foods as a sweetener in some cases. In other cases, it is added in small amounts, not for sweetness, but for moisture retention or shelf stability.

    I choose to share my professional perspective on HFCS not because I seek to encourage unchecked consumption of it, but because I am tired of people wasting their time on an issue that is founded on hyperbole and poor reporting of scientific facts. Let's instead agree that we all should decrease our intake of processed foods and added sweeteners. Let's instead focus on being good models for our children, eat the fruits and vegetables we want them to eat, and be active with them. The sooner we stop scape-goating the problem of obesity, the sooner we can focus on real solutions.

    Lisa Cimperman MS, RD, LD

  84. Where to start? I think a good place would be to provide the educational information that we presented, which everyone is talking about, but I assume most have not seen. So any of you, food bloggers, scientists, and anyone else can go view the webinar at

    Also, to those who said they wish they were invited to this event, noting they would present hard questions, we can set this up as well; you are welcome to ask questions; this is all about the discussion.

    Now to try to address some of the sentiment that is surrounding this event. I have a different opinion than many of you, and not just because I work for the CRA, though this may be hard for some to believe. The bloggers who were involved in this campaign came ready with some great questions, and in one of the events we did, we fortunately had enough time for an open Q & A where bloggers could ask questions after they had a chance to listen. So I would say that these bloggers did research beforehand to form their questions, and I trust that they did research afterwards as well.

    We did not provide scientific information to “confuse” any of the bloggers. We provided the facts as you will see, we responded to questions and we provided an archive so that any parts that would generate more critical thinking would be there for the bloggers to listen to again.

    I sometimes feel like I could yell from the rooftops that I personally researched HFCS in detail for weeks before I started working here – I developed my own personal beliefs and would never work for a company and try to educate the public on something that I didn’t fully believe in. But, unfortunately, for some folks none of that would seem to matter?

    I want to clarify two very important facts:

    – Despite what some people want to believe and stick to, there is a lot of misinformation that is out there in regard to high fructose corn syrup, and that is what this educational campaign is about. As a larger picture, we think it is also important to broaden the dialogue to talk about all sugars, and to provide ways to help people moderate their consumption of all sugars, so that’s what we have done.

    – Our campaign is not “predatory.” I am a mom, and a blogger (when I get a chance). I won't speak for you, but I can’t and won't be preyed upon. I think critically, I do my research, and just because you don’t agree with what we are presenting, does not mean that these bloggers did not do just what I did.

    Therese, Social Media Manager, CRA

  85. Where to start? I think a good place would be to provide the educational information that we presented, which everyone is talking about, but I assume most have not seen. So any of you, food bloggers, scientists, and anyone else can go view the webinar at

    Also, to those who said they wish they were invited to this event, noting they would present hard questions, we can set this up as well; that is if you want to go beyond just watching and you want to get your specific questions responded to, you are welcome; this is all about the discussion.

    Now to try to address some of the sentiment that is surrounding this event. I have a different opinion than many of you, and not just because I work for the CRA, though this may be hard for some to believe. The bloggers who were involved in this campaign came ready with some great questions, and in one of the events we did, we fortunately had enough time for an open Q & A where bloggers could ask questions after they had a chance to listen. So I would say that these bloggers did research beforehand to form their questions, and I trust that they did research afterwards as well.

    We did not provide scientific information to “confuse” any of the bloggers. We provided the facts as you will see, we responded to questions and we provided an archive so that any parts that would generate more critical thinking would be there for the bloggers to listen to again.

    Continued in the next comment.

    Therese, CRA

  86. Continued from previous comment”

    I sometimes feel like I could yell from the rooftops that I personally researched HFCS in detail for weeks before I started working here – I developed my own personal beliefs and would never work for a company and try to educate the public on something that I didn’t fully believe in. But, unfortunately, for some folks none of that would seem to matter?

    I want to clarify two very important facts:

    – Despite what some people want to believe and stick to, there is a lot of misinformation that is out there in regard to high fructose corn syrup, and that is what this educational campaign is about. As a larger picture, we think it is also important to broaden the dialogue to talk about all sugars, and to provide ways to help people moderate their consumption of all sugars, so that’s what we have done.

    – Our campaign is not “predatory.” I am a mom, and a blogger (when I get a chance). I won't speak for you, but I can’t and won't be preyed upon. I think critically, I do my research, and just because you don’t agree with what we are presenting, does not mean that these bloggers did not do just what I did.

    Therese, Social Media Manager, CRA

  87. @Lisa Cimperman

    But isn't it true that sucrose and HFCS are chemically different, and that the fructose in HFS is unbound as opposed to the naturally occurring sucrose? I am in the middle of researching this and would love any links you have showing that sucrose and HFCS are identical.

  88. Thank you for this post. HFCS (or glucose/fructose as it's labeled here in Canada) is nasty stuff. I won't take the word of people given perks in return for promoting it, that's for sure.

  89. @Mamasays
    Yes, HFCS and sucrose are chemically different, but have the same metabolic effects. The glucose and fructose are bound in sucrose; the glucose and fructose are unbound in HFCS. The reason why this is irrelevant from a metabolic standpoint, is because cleavage of the glucose-fructose bond is one of the first steps in the metabolism of sucrose – it begins in your mouth with an enzyme called salivary amylase.

    Here is a great review on the topic, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – a well respected, peer-reviewed journal. The full journal article is available for free – just search the journal's site or access it via PubMed.

    High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation.
    Melanson KJ, Angelopoulos TJ, Nguyen V, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Rippe JM. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1738S-1744S.

  90. Theresa,

    I appreciate you weighing in in the face of a lot of adversity here.

    1) I made it clear that my issues with HFCS and the corn lobby go beyond obesity issues. There are also economic and environmental issues that I find concerning.

    2) I remain convinced that the campaign is misleading, when the CRA identifies HFCS as “natural.”

    Guaranteed that when the lobbyists get the hell out of the FDA (if ever) we will look back at the time HFCS was called natural and laugh, the same as we laughed when doctors made cigarette ads.

    3) As to the critical thinking ability of the bloggers on the tour, I don't want to cast aspersions or generalize. I have not read every single post. However quite a few of them also posted, only two months ago, how delighted they were to hear that Hunts Ketchup took the HFCS out of their product to make it healthier.

    The two things that blog tour had in common with yours is that it ran through Mom Central, and the bloggers were compensated with gift certificates.

    I actually have yet to see a negative or critical post in a Mom Central blog tour. I don't know if that's by policy, or because people who write blog posts for $100 Walmart gift certificates find it challenging to critique their sponsors.

  91. As a registered dietitian, I believe the HFCS issue has become so emotional and totally out of control. It takes the focus off the bigger issue of healthy habits that can help people lose and maintain weight and decrease risk of chronic diseases. As a registered dietitian it would be so much simpler for me to take the alternate route and demonize HFCS as the popular media does but as a science and research-based practitioner, I must stand on the side of science, which clearly shows that the body cannot distinguish the glucose and fructose in HFCS from that in sugar, honey or fruit juice concentrates. There are two types of HFCS used in food products: 55% fructose primarily used in beverages and 42% fructose in other products like cereal bars, sports drinks, baked goods, salad dressings and condiments. It is interesting to note that the “natural” agave nectar some people are using as an alternative is 74% fructose.

    No one food or ingredient is responsible for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease or other conditions. It’s the total diet and lifestyle. More important than debating the relative risks and benefits of HFCS vs. sugar or any other sweetener, the key is to consume all sweeteners in moderation as part of a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. And by eating foods in appropriate portion sizes and balancing calorie intake with adequate physical activity, we can stem the tide of rising obesity and the health risks associated with it. I said all of these things before I became a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association and will continue to say them long afterward. Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD

  92. The internet has given stupid people a platform.

    We cannot get rid of the internet.

    We cannot get rid of the stupid.

    But I do hope that by posts like yours and by us calling out the brands and the participants we can try to make being stupid on the internet look less and less appealing.

  93. All the science-y stuff aside. Did any of these bloggers ever stop to think that it might look a little odd to write a whole post about the glories of Corn Sugar, or whatever the kids are calling it these days? *disclaimer, I've read none of these posts, so this is basically based on what I've read here*

    This would be the equivalent of me writing a post about why everyone should love Figs as much I do. Yawn.

  94. I can see not agreeing with the blog tour.

    I can see not agreeing with the way the information was distributed.

    I can see not liking that a pr firm geared towards parents paid for an advertorial of an item such as HCFS.

    Yes the bloggers could have googled and read up on this subject before agreeing to it, or even after to post a rebuttal. It would have been interesting to see some written this way.

    Let's remember though that it doesnt serve a purpose to ASSUME someones intelligence or ignorance based on a campaign they joined. It is also not nice to point fingers at said bloggers and call them names because of their participation.

    This is a heated subject. So is drowning, and let me tell you I was attacked over that subject without the attackers knowing the facts. So instead of attacking the bloggers who posted w/o knowing the facts, offer to point them to the information supporting your point of view.

    This is all.

  95. Leaving any scientific opinion in the back room there is one clear crapload from the CRA and the nutritionists who are supporting the CRA here: “HFCS does not cause obesity; people choosing to eat too much food causes obesity.”


    1) Lung cancer happens when you inhale too many things that aren't oxygen. Cigarette smoke is just one of many possible things you might choose to inhale.
    2) Lung cancer occurs, therefore, because you choose to inhale whatever it is you're inhaling.
    3) So to say that cigarettes cause lung cancer is to wrongly attribute causation to the product inhaled rather than the person making the choice.
    4) Therefore the tobacco industry would not be misleading the public in any way if it claimed that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer.

    That right there? Is obviously bullshit. But it's exactly the same argument pattern the CRA nutritionists are trotting out to allow the CRA to get away with saying “HFCS doesn't cause obesity, you do.”

  96. I actually love how you put this together. There are women out there though whose feelings are really getting hurt and some of them are starting to take their posts down because of all of this heat.
    I was one of the bloggers that did participate in this campaign and I was completely up front with who I was working with, what they told me, and what their affiliation was and that yes I was paid. I don't feel that I deserve to be attacked or that any of the other bloggers deserve to be attacked. Just because we wrote about it doesn't mean we feed our kids sugar, or HFCS all day long. In fact, I avoid almost all types of sugar. I feel like no one actually even read what I wrote, they just went and jumped on their I hate HFCS band wagon, started pointing fingers and bashing.
    None of us are going to agree on everything and there are statistics out there, reports out there to be scewed by whomever is fitting the bill.
    Please attack the content and not the bloggers.
    Don't go attacking the bloggers that wrote about HFCS or judging them, direct them to the links that support what you are saying. Be Kind!

  97. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that we need to own our words.

    Here's the deal. I think that as publishers we have an obligation to be transparent about our biases and to do a little bit of background work. Even just reading a Wikipedia article will often give you a sufficient overview of a product, company or issue. Then we need to consider whether we would actually be willing to recommend this product to a friend.

    If our value lies in our credibility, than recommending something based on PR copy alone undermines that. It's also not very good blog content, I don't think. At least, that's my take, as not only a blogger but a blog reader.

  98. Wow Liz, you say it perfectly. Better than I could have. Your last comment was spot on, that's my problem with the whole issue. Mom Central.

  99. I love when an “expert” comes in and starts talking about “our American food industry,” “Responsible, hard-working farmers,” and “responsible, moral people.” Because that is what an objection to HFCS is about. AWESOME.

    I do think HFCS is a hot topic right now, and I DO think that we tend to overlook the same issues on things that aren't as “hot,” e.g. Alias Mom's Pampers' example.

    That said, rather than hiring people who are confused by fancified science language to convince their barely literate readerships that HFCS is safe, I am routinely shocked at the chutzpah of the HFCS industrial complex. You would think they'd take a page out of the tobacco industry's book and just go hide quietly in the corner until somebody sues them and makes them start paying for multimillion -dollar PSAs against childhood obesity.

  100. @Lisa Cimperman,
    Thanks for the link. I can't read it now but have plans to go through it tonight. In the interest of fairness I did update my post to include it, so my readers can make up their own mind.

    Out of curiosity, did you discover this post (on Mom-101) randomly on your own, or did the Corn Refiners Association ask you to read it?

  101. When I was at Blogher #10 a well known blogger and I got in a bit of a tiff about all the high school like goings on and exclusive parties. She told me the 'new' bloggers didn't get into these parties because they didn't do enough for brands. I told her that was bullshit and most of this blogger brand worship was as well. I have been blogging for years and have been contacted by many multinational food corporations that sell product I would never feed my kids, so why would I promote them on my blog? The line is blurred for most by the appeal of free shit. But I wonder, will those gift certificates work on hospital bills when these moms'5 year olds are in the hospital for obesity & high blood pressure? I think nay.
    PS… HFCS is one of the reasons our food system is beyond destroyed. Changing the name to 'corn sugar' & having bloggers tell you it's natural and good won't change that fact.

  102. Just hit delete. This was a campaign I saw and was not interested in because it is contrary to the nutritional values of my family. I would never write a post {for compensation} about something I am against or something I didn't fully comprehend, especially when it comes to the health of kids.

  103. I resonate with what Mommy Niri said in the comments..I was disappointed in Mom Central over this, declined to participate and took their button off my blog. I steer away from political issues on my blog and HCFS is all kinds of wrapped up in it.

    Great take on things, as usual Liz!

  104. @ABD I'll buy that! And to Alias Mother (who I didn't finish respo, good point. This and Pampers are in fact similar in that way.

    To @Momstart,

    Thanks so much for weighing in here. Truly.

    I hope those bloggers don't take down their posts. I hope what they do as make an amendment–a simple EDITED TO ADD– at the bottom with any new information or opinions they now have. That's really doing right by your readers.

    Just yesterday I a product I was sent for review at Cool Mom Picks hadn't held up as well as I would have liked, and on top of it, some other bloggers informed me of customer service issues with the company. I made an adjustment to the post and rescinded the endorsement.

    I think readers really appreciate the honestly. We should all do that kind of thing more, me included.

  105. What Mir said. And you. Great post! My thoughts exactly all around. That said, I don't know what kind of freak ass moron would conclude their dietary research based on some moron blogger's blog, as opposed to, say, reading a few medical studies. But whatever. I fear the HFCS people just may succeed in their corn sugar quest. After all, how many people still call Canola Oil by its original moniker: rapeseed oil? But I definitely won't read anyone who happily sells her soul for a stupid gift certificate.

  106. I am one of “those bloggers” who posted about HFCS as a part of the Mom Central campaign. I have since edited my post to add that I am not advocating for or against HFCS and that I believe each individual should choose what is best for them. However, I think bashing a blogger for what they choose to post on THEIR blog is wrong and it hurts. So the next time you think about bashing another blogger please emember that all bloggers are human and all humans have feelings.

  107. I sure would like to see a researcher or medical person or nutritionist who is NOT affiliated with or paid by the CRA talk about how they think HFCS is awesome.

  108. I was really surprised when I first heard about this campaign and that some of the bloggers just posted in the information that they received without writing their own content. I'm glad I don't read any of them.

    Speaking personally as someone that is obese and does struggle with losing weight and does eat more calories than I burn… When I eat something with HFCS in it I can tell a difference. I get hungry quicker than when I eat something that is similar but without HFCS. This tells me that for me personally there IS a difference and that is enough to convince me to cut it out of mine and my families diet.

    Another thing, I don't really understand why it needs to be in so many different foods. HFCS or sugar either one? Just why? It makes no sense at all.

  109. Oi. Oi vey!

    I have concerns on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

    The two most frustrating parts of this whole thing for me are these:

    1. These moms are being taken advantage of {some are willing participants} by corporations with so much spending money it isn't funny. AND. And. To promote something we're all aware is a problem.


    2. This sets such a bad precedent for both marketers and bloggers in the future. Marketers then go to bloggers with campaigns saying, “I can get x,y, and z bloggers to participate for this paltry compensation, so I wouldn't consider paying you”.

    I'm a little growly over this.

  110. I too was invited on this trip, but it did not fit into the message “healthy whole foods” that I share with my readers. Sure, sometimes we all eat the “wrong” thing – but 99% of the time I keep myself and my family on the right track.

    I think it is OK to go and learn things on certain blog trips – we are not forced to write up a big glossy post, or we shouldn't be. I report on things I am comfortable with and will continue to do so. My goal is to be a mindful citizen & sharer of info.

  111. Did the bloggers participating receive their gift certificates regardless of whether they wrote positive or negative (or neutral) content? Did any of the bloggers run negative content about HFCS? Because being paid to learn about a product and then write one's own impressions is very different from writing what amounts to an advetorial and not labeling it as such.

  112. Liz – I loved your post. I love many of the comments.

    I wasn't invited to participate in this particular campaign – I don't get asked to participate in a lot of campaigns – but after the Nestle twitstorm and many others, I can't believe that the individuals involved haven't all done full disclosure or comprehensive research before tackling such a controversial topic.

  113. Do you really go to a blog for information about health and nutrition. Call me crazy, but I don't think that most of us bloggers are experts in the field.

    Some are and some aren't. But as a parent and an adult I have an obligation to engage in critical thought about everything I read.

    To me that means that it is my responsibility to determine whether I am being fed a line of BS or if it is truthful.

    And any time I see a review I wonder what the person received and whether it influenced their post.

    I expect people to do the same on my blog. But I am not going to harangue and harass bloggers for being a part of it.

  114. Jennifer, near the end, brought up a good point, which is, why is it in so many products to begin with? If we were to treat it like sugar, then it would be easier to eat in moderation. Soda, candy, cake, ice cream…all fine and good IN MODERATION. It's when they put it in the bread and the peanut butter and the jelly and crackers and so on that you start to have real problems. And they do. Because, I think, it helps to keep the bread soft, is cheaper than sugar for peanut butter etc.

    I guess my point is, I don't have a huge problem with HFCS as long as it stays where it belongs, as a replacement for sugar. Of course, there is more to it than that, there is the amount of money being spent to keep the corn industry going, how our DNA is becoming corn, how much water and resources it takes, etc. We'd be better off eating naturally. I hate that in order to do that, you have to be a really informed consumer. I, for one, would love to be able to go into ANY store in America, (heck, the world), and buy products without having to try to figure out if they're relatively healthy or not. Cookies, I know are not healthy. Whole Wheat bread shouldn't be a question.

    And here comes the F bomb, so watch out. I am FUCKING tired of hearing about the obesity epidemic every damn time I turn around. Don't people realize that obsessing about food like this is increasing the anxiety that our kids feel about their bodies, and thus causing more and more eating disorders? RELAX people. FUCKING RELAX. Feed your kids healthy food, get them outside to play (or inside if you can't get out), and let it go. Yes, healthy food needs to be available, and safe places for people to get out and move, and that can be done in a far better way than it is currently being done.

    Sorry, that wasn't really your point. But I'm SO tired of reading about it. Went to the opening of a pedestrian bridge the other day and had to hear about how it was going to help the war against childhood obesity. With my anorexic neighbor 10 feet away. Thanks.

  115. By the way? Ask the person who pays the bloggers gift certs for their posts how much she receives from brands. You'll be astounded.

  116. Brandi I'm sorry you feel that way.

    But I hope that you'll base your opinion on me based on things I actually did say and not on things that are being attributed to me.

    My POV, as stated in this post. For the record. Once again:

    1) My issues with HFCS go beyond the health issues.
    2) Bloggers can align themselves with whatever brands they want provided they make informed decisions about it, and own their words.
    3) I don't like people attacking bloggers for their brand relationships. I encouraged people not to do do this.
    4) Some bloggers in this program admitted to being uniformed or confused by the information presented to them.

    This is what I take issue with.

  117. This is why I am very leary about affiliating myself with any brand or service. If it is not something that I would actually use with my own family, I won't advocate it for my readers.They trust me and I can't be bought. If offered a service that I believe in, like arts and education for kids, organic healthy ways of living, then I consider it but normally I don't want to waste a post, it makes me feel like an advertising agency when what I want to be known for is my content..not my giveaways or what brand I affiliate with. I have nothing against mom's who do this as long as they are honest. But don't mislead you readers, people who trust you ,for a few bucks!

  118. Liz, thanks for stirring the corn syrup pot. I want to call attention to a breakfast I hosted for Kellogg's a few weeks ago. I jumped at the chance (and yes I got a big check–not coupons). Do you know why? Because I had the chance to gather a group of Brooklyn moms via a conference call with Kellogg to ask about HFCS and why they don't use corn syrup.

    I don't know about Mom Central–but with Kellogg's I had free reign on what I asked and how I presented the brand. We grilled them and they had some answers–but at the best, we made our voices heard. Kellogg's knows that a check and boxes of cereal will get the conversation started. I just hope they listen.

    And I was open to going to Michigan on the blog trip–not b/c I wanted to see Michigan in fall splendor–but because I viewed it as my chance to have my voice heard in front of the big guys.

    Thanks for highlighting these tours–we need to be careful about who we jump into bed with. But when used wisely there is power in partnerships.

  119. Sorry on that last comment I meant to say why they don't use cane sugar. Kellogg's owns Kashi. Kashi uses cane to sweeten.

    And I ended up not going on the blog trip. I hope someone else there voices concern and isn't wowed by freebies.

  120. @Nicole,

    My understanding is that the bloggers on the HFCS call were also encouraged to ask questions freely. I can't imagine they wouldn't be.

    I'm not sure though how many of them were coming from a place of skepticism the way you were on your call.

    It seems that from the comments here, folks that were predisposed not to like the nature of the project simply declined to participate altogether.

  121. @Jack

    People don't go to mom blogs for nutritional information, per se, but they do use google to search for that info, and blogs are indexed just the same as any site. so you can search “Is HFCS safe” and if you get a lot of posts saying “It's as natural as sugar” it's conceivable that that may influence your opinion, one way or another.

    It's one of the reason these consulting companies are successful in the first place – moms trust the opinions of other moms. Especially on blogs. That's why, personally, I like the idea of us really thinking through the stuff we endorse.

    Do we need to “harass” bloggers about this? Good lord no. I specifically made that point in my post.

  122. @BarbaraCA- If you are still reading, I will refer you (again, but this time with a link that works) to Marion Nestle, who is a very well known and respected public health expert working in the area of food safety and our food system. She has written frequently on her blog about HFCS, including a critique of the “Princeton HFCS study” that is often cited as final proof of the health impact of HFCS (spoiler alert- a lot of scientists- neutral scientists with no ties to the food industry- had concerns with its design):

    Lots and lots of studies have looked for some metabolic difference between HFCS and sucrose. As far as I know, “the Princeton study” (which was a small study using rats) is the only one to find any evidence of a difference, and no one has provided a plausible mechanism to explain WHY sucrose and HFCS would be metabolized differently. As I said above, I have zero affiliation with any food group. I actually limit all refined sugars in my diet and my childrens' diets, and would cry no tears if HFCS disappeared tomorrow. But as a scientist, it makes me twitchy when people pick and choose which studies to believe based on whether or not they agree with the conclusions. That's not good science. It was wrong when the Bush administration did it (and they did do it- all the time), but it is equally wrong to do it to attack an industry you disagree with.

    With that said… I do suspect there are both environmental and economic risks from the corn monoculture that we've developed on our farms. Maybe there is an argument against HFCS on those grounds. But don't make claims about its health impacts that are NOT supported by the science. That just muddies the waters and makes me less inclined to listen to your viewpoint on the other aspects of the issue. And I think it does real harm to people who think that switching from HFCS to sucrose is going to make them healthier or thinner The overwhelming weight of the evidence is that it won't. Only cutting total intact of all refined sugars will.

  123. Thanks Cloud, I'm always interested in your POV on this stuff.

    I actually saw the Marion Nestle post which is compelling; I didn't in fact link to or mention the Princeton study based on her post and the comments from one of the researchers who said the findings were misreported by the university.

    That said, she also takes issue with marketing HFCS as “natural.”

    And yes, I have issues besides the nutritional ones.

    Thanks for the link. I like reading all sides.

  124. Very insightful post! I just have one question…how can you possibly like BOTH Coke and Pepsi? I always thought you could be in one camp or the other. 🙂

  125. Thanks, Liz!- I always enjoy reading your POV on the marketing issues, which I know nothing about. And sorry, I didn't mean to imply you were picking and choosing the science to believe. That was a global “you”. It has been a long day that included holding my baby down for a blood draw… I probably shouldn't be trying to write a coherent comment.

    Personally, I wish that they'd just label as fructose and glucose, because that is what the ingredients actually are, and the science definitely supports limiting fructose intake. But that won't happen.

    I'm still trying to find the time to do the reading to have an actual informed opinion about the other impacts of HFCS. The closest I've gotten is reading “The End of Food” by Paul Roberts (which I really liked as a reasonably balanced survey of the various food issues we face today- I generally like Michael Pollan, but on this issue, he is writing to persuade, not educate.)

    OK, I'm way off topic now. Thanks, as always, for a thought provoking post.

  126. Well – isn't this cute. MomCentral posted post about the “mom-Borg” in reaction to this post, I commented, and it was deleted.

    Luckily, I had run it by a Skype friend of mine before I hit “send”, so I can post it here:

    Begin comment that was deleted:
    [10:12:51 PM] Mindi Cherry (Moms Need To Know): I think my main problem was with the fact that MomCentral took a “gig” with the CRA (who are in the business of promoting HFCS) within a month of promoting a blog campaign of a new ketchup that doesn't contain HFCS.

    For me, this is not about individual bloggers, this is about MomCentral taking any campaign that pays.

    Google “Mom Central HFCS mom” to see what I mean. The 2nd page of Google shows posts against HFCS in ketchup, sponsored by MomCentral, as recently as September 21, 2010.

    I eat items with HFCS. I try not to do so, but it is almost unavoidable. I have reviewed products that contained HFCS on my site and declared them tasty, but also mentioned that because of the nutritional value, they are “treats”, not “dietary staples”.

    I am not upset with the bloggers (although I read many of the posts and much of the explanations as to why HFCS was boiled down to “they used a bunch of technical lingo and there was a pie chart…so I guess it is ok”). I am upset with MomCentral.

    I expect businesses (especially mom-owned and those that target to moms) to operate with a modicum of consistency.

    Clearly, MomCentral doesn't do this. That is why I have no desire to ever work with MomCentral again, and have unsubbed from all future mailings

    (end deleted comment)

    WTG MomCentral!

  127. I was not asked to participate in the blog tour. Now as the Canadian “Healthy Eating/lunches” Food blogger, THAT would've been funny. I would've grilled them silly.

    Being a food blogger that promotes healthy eating, lunches, whole vs processed foods, I am very careful about which food products I will align myself with. My criteria is that it has to be something we would buy and eat, and if that sounds easy, let me tell you-it's NOT.

    What bothers me so much about this is that these bloggers accepted gift certificates to participate in a webinar telling them about HFCS…with doctors, researchers, etc….who are obviously biased, right? Why would the Corn Refiners Association bother to present unbiased facts? Let's just throw some gift certificates at the bloggers, get some “trusted types” to tell them it's okay, and they'll run to their blogs and write about it! As I read through some of the reviews, they all seem to parrot the same information.

    Which was fed to them by the “experts” paid for and provided by the very company that makes the product they are promoting.

    GAH. For some reason, it reminds me of Erin Brockovich.

    As bloggers, we have powerful voices. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about topics, not just parrot whatever mumbo jumbo some company feeds us when they throw a few gift certificates our way.

    This is likely why I don't get pitches, but honestly? I don't care.

  128. I am a blogger and I have a degree in journalism. In no way is my or any blog fact. It is opinion with some basis in fact…and let's be honest, no scientific facts or 3 reliable sources to quote. (Which was the standard I had to meet 20 years ago in college to get anything other than an F on an article I wrote)

    Why anyone would take a blog post at face value is beyond me. I do think we (bloggers) should disclose any freebies or payment we get for things. I always disclose if I'm working for a client or doing something for a freebie in my posts or emails to try to get more bloggers on webinars/calls.

    Perhaps mommy bloggers can now give the NY Times a break about its story last summer – seems kind of prescient.

  129. I read with considerable dismay the Mom-101 source article and the many comments. I'm a nutritional biochemist with a specialty is caloric sweeteners, a specialty acquired through nearly 30 years of research into the manufacture, use, biochemistry and nutrition of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates and agave nectar. I’ve been a consultant for the last 16 years, sharing this experience with clients in the food and beverage industry.

    I was one of the presenters for the webinar hosted by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) and would like to thank those among you who attended for caring enough about the accuracy of what you write to seek additional information. I’m dismayed for the way your fellow bloggers have castigated you for trying to be better informed. Whether or not your report of the webinar proceedings met Mom-101’s high standards for technical writing, I appreciate your attempt to share your experience with others. I suspect the message you shared is more at issue than the words you chose to do so. And let’s be clear that the gift certificate was a way of thanking those who took extra time to record their honest impressions after the webinar was over. It's surprising that those who didn’t attend are so critical, since they didn’t hear what was presented or how it was presented.

    I’m also dismayed by the lack of factual information being perpetuated in this and other blogs. I chose to work with CRA because I'm among the best-qualified scientists – by virtue of my training and experience – to talk and write about this subject. There are many scientists and lay people who talk, write and even research on this subject who are not.

    Continued below…

  130. …continued from above

    Please hear this message clearly: there is now scientific agreement among experts in the field that high fructose corn syrup and sugar (sucrose) are nutritionally equivalent. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came to this conclusion in awarding it Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status on two occasions after rigorous scientific examination. So, too, did the American Medical Association and the American Dietetic Association. This conclusion was also reached by three separate expert scientific panels convened by the University of Maryland’s Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy; the American Society for Nutrition; and a symposium jointly sponsored by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). And finally, there are numerous outspoken nutrition personalities who concur: Jacobson (CSPI), Nestle, Bray, Popkin, Ludwig, Willett, Havel, etc. Such consensus is rare.

    So, you don’t have to take CRA’s word for it or even my word for it. But it is indeed foolish to promote a point of view that experts have abandoned. The world is not flat.

    The scientific basis for nutritional equivalence between high fructose corn syrup and sugar was presented at the CRA webinar. Please consider attending the next time it’s offered. Just say no to the gift certificate if you feel it compromises you, but we’d still be interested in your impression.

  131. Hey John White, PhD. You dont know much about social media. Coming on here and telling us the world is not flat, is a flat out insult. Do you CRA compensated experts think before you type?

    You make me want to make sure that people know how the CRA is promoting something under the false pretense of being natural, when in fact HFCS is NOT NATURAL. ITS MAN MADE, refined from corn and chemical reactions…same with a lot of the genetically modified corn.

    Dont try to tell American people what to think. An industry was created to refine corn to make this stuff, and now you all make LOTS of money off it. Your association represents an industry that was created and wants us to accept it and consume it without any talk back.

  132. to John White PhD:

    The fact remains, despite whatever consensus you want to claim, that high fructose corn syrup causes obesity.

    Chemically, it might cause it in exactly the same way that sucrose does, but finding a chemically-relevant difference was always a hope and a red herring because the real issue has always been the cheap cost and thus its inclusion into many garbage foods that consumers are price-incentivized to buy.

    Every time a nutritionist or researcher says “HFCS does not cause obesity” they are lying. Every time one of you says “Consumers make themselves fat by over-eating” you are blinding yourself and others to the economic realities of food purchasing. And at the end of the day the CRA wants more HFCS in foods so that those foods are cheaper and taste better and so consumers will eat more of them. We buy fewer of those products if sugar is used in them because they get priced out.

    And for a restatement of the problem with the “blame the consumer” argument see my comment way above.

  133. @John White
    Thanks for sharing so much info. Do you have any colleagues who do not accept payment from the CRA or other marketing groups that have published research in this field? I am trying to find objective information about this very thing.

    Thanks for any help. You can contact me privately through my blog, if you wish.

  134. To John White, PhD:

    Which “experts in the field” are you referring to? The ones in the big fields full of GM corn? Oh wait, I forgot! The people are not supposed to know that 90% of HFCS is made with Genetically Modified corn. Mmm…tasty franken food! Not too mention that there are more and more studies demonstrating the negative health effects of GM food.

    So back to HFCS. How about the study that showed a 48% increase in the weight of rats feed with HFCS versus table sugar? Or how about the study that demonstrated the rapid growth of cancer cells exposed to HFCS – it literally feeds cancer!

    All that aside, how dare the CRA call HFCS natural or even dare to compare it to honey or cane sugar. There is nothing “natural” about HFCS or the GM corn it is made with.

    I don't have a PhD, but I'm smart enough to know when I'm being duped! Oh and a lot of the information I have provided in this post was passed onto me by a contact that works for one of the largest processor of GM corn and HFCS.

  135. Bravo, Liz. You raise excellent points about both HFCS and blogger responsibility. With more and more companies roping in bloggers to spread their message, bloggers need to take responsibility and understand just what kind of message they are spreading. Blogs are built on trust and rapport. Bloggers who write about things they really don't understand, implicitly endorsing them, violate that trust.

  136. John, thanks for weighing in here

    (and while I appreciate some of the commenters weighing in in response, I really hope we can keep the debate respectful, if passionate as we always have on this blog.)

    As I said, my issues go beyond the claims of sugar nutritional equivalence. It has to do with claims of “natural” and issues beyond nutrition.

    My issues are also about whether or not a blogger should be promoting a controversial political issue without being well-versed in the subject.

    In other words, I'm trying to inform too. Same as you. And I'm being castigated myself for doing it.

    Guess we'd have a lot to talk about huh.

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

  137. @MileHighMama

    I linked above to the full webinar with audio and all, here it is again Mom Central Webinar.

    Look under “Supplement: The State of the Science on Dietary Sweeteners Containing Fructose” and you will see third party studies done that are peer-reviewed. I believe out of these studies, Dr. White is the only one who has worked with us (I will check on this), and there is another scientists Cloud who has made some interesting points on this posting as well. Supplement: The State of the Science on Dietary Sweeteners Containing Fructose

    @Mom 101 – I sent you an e-mail as well, right as you were writing this post I imagine. If you would like to talk about the other issues you have, then we can talk. Did you get my e-mail?

    Therese, CRA

  138. This kind of stuff infuriates me. The CRA is trying everything to stem the flow of the eduction of moms, to keep the knowledge from spreading regarding the truth about HFCS, to redirect how we feel about it in our children's food. It's crap and it shouldn't be in our food. I hate those commercials where one mom says to another after the mom is giving out juice to the kids, “Don't you know that has high fructose corn syrup in it? You know what they say about it…' And the other mom gives her a look that says “you are an idiot' and says “yeah, what about it?” The other mom looks uncertain after having been challenged to defend her statement and gives up with a mild shrug. AFTER the pro-HFCS mom says that HFCS is made from corn with no artificial ingredients and, like sugar, is fine in moderation. Well that makes me feel better. Now I do not have to go out of my way to find products made without HFCS.

    I am not one of those moms that believe everybody is out to get us, but I do believe there is quite a bit of truth & information being withheld from the public in the quest for the almighty dollar.

  139. I went to the MomCentral blog update.
    Comment section is closed, which I think is an unfortunate thing on a post asking for respectful dialogue among bloggers…
    if that's what she was doing.

  140. I was going to post here first this a.m. then caught you being busy already today and posted there – but I will add (I think, I can't get through all the comments of support!!!) that I find one good thing that has come of all the HFCS attention – several companies are now actually listing LARGE on the front of their labels that the product doesn't contain HFCS, not that I still don't read the label because the suger is in there somehow I am sure, but it's one less thing I have to try and do while I rush through the store to make good choices for my family.

    Thanks for the great discussion this week Liz (as always!)

  141. I can't comment on the HFCS issue/debate. I don't know enough to weigh in, nor do I have time to read all the excellent comments on this great post.

    I do, however, know an awful lot about the FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials, and that's where my concern lies, for this and *any other blog campaign* that includes *scientific or nutritional* claims.

    1. Is the information presented to the bloggers accurate? Advertisers have an obligation to present truthful information to endorsers. They don't have the obligation to present both sides however. That's up to the blogger to do her due diligence.

    2. Did the bloggers represent the comapny information accurately in their posts? If they do not, both the blogger and the company have an obligation to correct it. The company can't make the blogger do it if she refuses, but it has to have a trail showing the attempt.

    3. Did the bloggers disclose the compensation they received – no matter how small? The blogger is required to do so, and the company must monitor to ensure that she does. Again, it is the record that they made the effort to correct omissions that the company needs. Can't force people if they won't do it.

    When it comes to scientific, nutritional and environmental claims, I think bloggers need to be extra vigilant. These are complex issues and people do take our words seriously.

    And the FTC is paying attention. Next on its list (which I write about on Marketing Roadmaos today) is Green claims.

  142. Here is Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.

    Now High fructose corn syrup, does contain more fructose than Table sugar does. I wonder if he would be willing to come on here and tell us that we have no reason to be concerned at all about the possible future effects of using “corn sugar.”

    And my other major argument, is “corn sugar” is not natural at all like cane sugar ot sugar beets. You can make sugar from beets and canes by pressing and evaporation. Corn sugar is mixed with chemical, heated and removed at different temps to create diff sweetness. All the info is out there. To start &

    I watched the whole 1.5 hour video thanks to UCSF. Great insight.

    There are many good points to watch but look at:

    Watch at the 13 min mark on why more corn syrup/sugar has been added.

    Watch 1 hr 5 min, reason not to feed Fructose corn syrup to kids

    Watch 1 hr 19 min for #HFCS fructose corn syrup and baby formula.

  143. I may be repeating but I'm in the middle of unswaddling my 5 month old (so neither of us are sleeping) and chasing my 2 yr old while trying to keep up with this on my Blackberry…where can I find a link/list of the blogs who participated? I'm curious to read some of their posts.

    I don't have a lot of time these days to spend on the internet (see above) but I always appreciate your strong yet gentle way of bringing issues such as these to light. Thanks.

  144. Feels superfluous to even leave a comment, but when has that ever stopped me?

    Liz, I loved your post and the one you published to follow it. And I was happy reading through these comments to see that I was not the only person who abandoned their water bottle in their hotel room at Type A Mom and for the same reason. As a travel blogger, I don't often comment on these kinds of issues – they aren't on-topic for me. But trust me that I am so pleased to see the kind of lively and thoughtful discussion going on here.

    I'll never forget the moment I discovered that the dried blueberries I bought at Costco had HFCS in them – dried blueberries! My oldest child learned how to read labels when he was five. Now that he is 8 he can't get enough of just about anything with lots of HFCS in it, but at least he knows when he's ingesting it. To me that's the critical thing – to know what you are eating, what's in it, and where it came from. If I've got kids who can do that I feel my work is done.

  145. Lions, tigers, and bears..oh my! Just wanted to say, “Good for you!” Liz on keeping a level head during what is a very controversial campaign. So many wonderful points were made in this post and the following post that should be kept in mind during any blogger's attempt to support any issue or product. Required reading.

  146. [comment reprinted from prev deletion]

    I have been ranting about corn sugar for the past month. And then I went to Type A Mom and there was a corn sugar water bottle. And I actually screamed in frustration.

    Here's one

    and another

  147. Way to go for standing up and speaking out! I wrote a post about the evils of HFCS before there was a campaign to get mommy bloggers to tout it's “naturalness”

  148. i'm finding it a tad bit ironic right now that i can't actually read this post because the words have been eaten on the side by your ads.

    just sayin'…

    so, what'd you say?

  149. Ha Ericka,

    what eats my template are comments with long URLs that are longer than they should be. I'm working on it – short of deleting all the comments here with URLs in them.

  150. To: @Neva Cochran, Therese, Lisa Cimperman, John White and others working through the CRA:

    I think what may have started the anti-HFCS campaign was the fact that it was in everything. Who knows–perhaps even fruits and vegetables were about to be injected with it? People felt that they didn't have a choice, and began thinking and researching–maybe even becoming a little angry.
    When slave ships came over “the middle passage,” a few captured Africans tried to starve themselves rather than face a life of slavery. However, these people were held down while food was forced down their throats with instruments made for force-feeding. Maybe many Americans began to feel like this toward the CRA. (I say Americans because many other countries have choices).
    The “sweet surprise” commercials could have subconsciously fueled these feelings. Most people hated those commercials–commercials that portrayed American parents as stupid. Many people started questioning, researching, and changing their eating habits. Increasingly, individuals are eliminating fast and junk food from their diets. Now that people are getting some choices, perhaps the anger towards HFCS will die down a little (or the people eating it will eventually die out).
    Don't worry, though. I'm sure that “natural” high fructose corn syrup will always be available for those of you with the CRA to feed to your children.
    However, if the CRA continues to make those irritating commercials, then HFCS may be on its way out. I think the American public is quite upset about being talked down to.
    By the way, to Mom 101–your blog is what America is all about. Great posts, and great comments from everyone.

  151. I only saw a little bit about this last week and it makes me SO angry.

    Both that it has to do with HFCS (don't even get me started…) and that it has to do with people just posting for the payment and not really knowing what they are ACTUALLY posting about. I call that a “blogging fail.” Plain and simple.

  152. I agree with your post. It is called integrity – get some. Hiding behind the obscurity of the internet does not make it right. Some people believe the stuff they read on the internet without questioning it. They have a responsiblity to be honest with their reviews, if they are going to provide them. Another example of the sad state of the American capitalist culture.

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