Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sugary haze

196 pounds
As some of you may know from my post about
Pepsi Throwback, I'm a fan of soda made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. Real sugar—or real anything (sugar, butter, cheese)—is almost always better for you than chemically processed sugar, so I've been thrilled to see a few soft drink companies bringing back soda made with beet or cane sugar.

While it's true that too much sugar—whether it's processed or not—isn't good for anyone, it's also true that in moderation it's better to have the real stuff than to shovel a bunch of carcinogenic chemicals in your body along with it.

And that's why Pepsi is introducing Sierra Mist Natural this weekend. Not only have they replaced the high fructose corn syrup with real sugar, they've also cut all the preservatives, which is a move I can definitely get behind since "Preservatives are toxic and tumor-causing. Most impact the nervous system, changing behavior. Some have an impact on reproductive health or weaken the immune system."*

But what's strange about this is the way I heard about, which was in an Associated Press article called, "Pepsi Giving Away Cans of Sugary Soda."

Say what?

The way this headline is written, it sounds like Pepsi is giving away soda made by Satan . . . or at least soda that is much worse for you than the average Pepsi, which seems like an odd choice given that the opposite is true—the new Sierra Mist Natural is better for you than the old Sierra Mist. So shouldn't the headline say, "Pepsi giving away cans of soda made with natural sugar" or "Pepsi giving away cans of soda without preservatives"? And am I crazy to think that the headline they did use is totally misleading? Am I crazy to think that it almost sounds like the reporter is trying to make Pepsi look bad?

The answer is, no, I'm not.

The article also claims that Pepsi has created this new drink to counteract the "slump in soft drink sales and a rise in sales of juices and teas, which are perceived as healthier than soda." Juice and teas are "perceived as healthier than soda"? Does that sound as funny to you as it does to me??? OF COURSE, juice and tea are healthier than soda. Because real juice is a great source of fruit and vitamins, and tea is rich in antioxidants. But the way this article was written makes it sound like that may not actually be the case.

The article also claims that there is "little scientific evidence" to show that "high fructose corn syrup is more harmful or more likely to cause obesity than sugar." But that's simply not the case. There actually have been several studies that have shown that high fructose corn syrup is worse for you than natural sugar—the most recent one out of Princeton University. Yes, it's true that the Corn Refiners Association questions this research, but to say that little evidence exists is just plain wrong.

So why did this reporter get so many of his facts wrong?

I'll never know for sure, but it almost seems like the article was written by the corn lobby, a group that is fighting very hard right now to re-brand "high fructose corn syrup" as "corn sugar" because Americans are finally learning about the problems with it and the giant subsidies the government gives to the corn industry.

And maybe that's exactly what happened with this article. Some lazy reporter got a press release from the Corn Refiners Association, and rather than check any of the facts, he simply copied the pertinent lines—"percieved as healthier than soda" . . . "little scientific evidence"—word for word. What's sad about this is that most people will probably take what he says as fact and think, "If it's in the newspaper, then it must be true."

Incidentally, as Michael Pollan explains in his bestselling book The Omnivore's Dilemma, corn farming "undermines small farmers, depletes soil nutrients and weakens topsoil—which, in turn leads to more fertilizer use, and further environmental damage."

All of this means that cutting back on high fructose corn syrup will be good for farming and good for our planet. Just one more reason I'm glad Sierra Mist Natural was invented.


  1. I would just like to say that Sierra Mist Natural is delicious and my favorite soda. I don't normally drink soft drinks, but this is the only one I will occasionally have.