Your Input Wanted: The Discussion Continues with the Corn Refiners Association

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Perhaps you’ve been following the dialogue I’ve been having with Therese Pompa, the social media manager for the Corn Refiners Association. We started speaking after I posted a Saturday Night Live video satirizing a high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) commercial, and then we subsequently exchanged a pair of letters. As you’ll see below in our second exchange of letters, I felt Therese was dodging my concerns about HFCS, and she in turn felt that I am “not trying to have a genuine conversation.”

So let’s have that conversation. Readers, please leave any comments, questions, or concerns below that you have about high fructose corn syrup. As always, please remain respectful and thoughtful in doing so. Therese, feel free to comment yourself, or ask people from your camp to contribute their ideas.

I know people lead busy lives so I have included excerpts below from the links Therese sent that I believe sum up the argument being made by each commentator. I also plan to invite the commentators to participate so that we can offer as balanced a conversation as possible.

Please read the two preceding letters if you have not already done so, as the following letters pick up where we left off:


We have different beliefs and passions, and that is okay – that is what makes the world go round.  And I too appreciate the open dialogue and being able to candidly discuss where we are at, and how we can get to a better place.

No system is perfect, we are not perfect.

We want to discuss both sides and we want to address concerns, but actions speak louder than words.  Let’s start here, help us understand how we can better provide this information to shoppers so that they can have clarity on sugars and how much they should be consuming. Let’s discuss more where you are coming from, so that we can provide better information to others who may have the same questions and concerns as you do?

We do appreciate your feedback on our campaign as well.

Thank you,
Therese Pompa

My response:

Dear Therese,

We just came to the conclusion that we don’t agree on the implications of high fructose corn syrup, so I don’t see how the Corn Refiners Association would take any of my suggestions seriously.  But based on the thoughts in my last email, the corn industry could start with more transparency and acting with integrity to build the public’s trust.  You asked me how I thought you could provide better information to shoppers, and how to have clarity on sugars and consumption, but it is the work of your industry, not mine, to decide how to implement those changes.

Further, I was disheartened that you didn’t address any of the concerns I had in my last email — such as the Marion Nestle quote remaining on your website — and instead responded so briefly, saying “nobody’s perfect.”  To me, this continues to show a lack of accountability on the corn industry’s part and frankly a resistance to the “open dialogue” your position professes to create.

You agreed that high fructose corn syrup has an image problem.  If you want to prove that the corn industry is listening to the public’s concerns, then please tell me what your industry is doing to change perceptions, as the commercials (now used as comedic fodder) are clearly not working for many people.  A scientific study from your camp refuting one of ours doesn’t work either, as not one has been deemed conclusive by both sides.

Show that the corn industry acknowledges that high fructose corn syrup may be metabolized differently than sugar, and have different effects, and wants to work to figure that out, whatever the outcome.  Your industry needs to directly address the concerns people have, however erroneous you may think them to be, and not skirt around them instead.  That would be a start if you are genuinely interested in changing people’s minds.

I appreciate the fact that you are willing to have a continuing dialogue.  I hope it can result in progress for both sides.

Jane Bills

And, finally, her response with commentator links:


I know you felt as if I did not address some of your questions prior, and the reason why is because I wanted to have a dialogue, and thought that would be more important than going tit-for-tat.   However, you pointed out in so many words yourself that you do not trust us, so hopefully you can find the following information from independent commentators helpful.

When I said we are not perfect, I meant with how we are communicating.  I don’t feel it demonstrated a lack of accountability, as I don’t think any of us are perfect.  If we were perfect in our communication efforts, then more people would see the science and facts for what they are.   Part of the problem is the lack of trust that you noted.  You don’t trust us, you voiced that, and to get past that barrier you want us to state something that is not true.  We are providing shoppers with information, and since you make a goal to do the same, I thought we could have a dialogue that involved us getting the bigger picture message out there, but you don’t seem to be interested in having that conversation.

I sent you links that challenged the Princeton study.  Keep in mind that they are not our statements, they are independent experts.  The Princeton study is the only study that alleged metabolic differences. But these were in rats, not humans; the study had many flaws which independent people have identified; and not one study has been able to replicate those findings.  Many other peer reviewed studies show that HFCS and sucrose are metabolized by humans the same way, but as you said, us going back and forth with studies is not going to make a difference.

A number of independent experts have spoken out on the misinformation, and these are people who have no affiliation with us.  I hope you and your readers will take a look at what is being said by others, even if you disbelieve us.  And when looking at studies keep in mind that most all studies that get picked up by the popular press involve large amounts of fructose, not HFCS, which are fed to rats, not humans, with the results then misapplied to HFCS.  Why should we not challenge studies when the science is faulty, or when HFCS was not even used in the study, but it is mentioned in the press release?  As you can see, we are not the only ones who feel this way….”I hate science press releases that hype a study beyond its importance. I hate it even more when the investigators who published the study make statements not justified by the study and use the study as a jumping off point to speculate wildly.” Orac at, Respectful Insolence Blog, August 5, 2010

Experts that you can talk to:

Is Sugar Making Us Fat? A piece by Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N., who provides her view on this whole debate in a podcast.  You may actually know of her, along with Joy Bauer:

EXCERPT: “Most foods that contain HFCS are highly processed, calorie-dense foods without a lot of nutritional value. If you avoid this one ingredient, it’s going to take a lot of unhealthy foods out of your diet. I’m all for it. Just don’t confuse the carrier with the culprit. All added sugars, including natural sugars like honey and agave nectar, contain fructose. And all of them will increase your risk of weight gain if you consume them in excess.”

Is Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar? A piece by Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N

EXCERPT: “Short-term studies performed in humans suggest that the two sweeteners are metabolized the same way. For example, when researchers give individuals two different beverages sweetened with either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup and measure their blood sugar levels, hormone secretions, and appetite ratings in the hours immediately following ingestion, they see no differences in how the two sweeteners are processed. But the research is ongoing, and questions remain concerning the relationship between corn syrup consumption and body weight over the long term.”

The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup.  A piece by Becky Hand, RD/LD This is an interesting piece as Becky once thought there was a sugar/HFCS difference as well.

EXCERPT: “The fructose and glucose in table sugar are chemically bonded together, and the body must first digest sugar to break these bonds before the body can absorb the fructose and glucose into the bloodstream. In contrast, the fructose and glucose found in HFCS are merely blended together, which means it doesn’t need to be digested before it is metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream. Because of this, theories abound that HFCS has a greater impact on blood glucose levels than regular sugar (sucrose). However, research has shown that there are no significant differences between HFCS and sugar (sucrose) when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight and metabolism), ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone), or the changes in blood glucose levels.”

Skeptoid by Brian Dunning. You may have head of Brian Dunning, he debunks a lot of myths and does it with third party credible information.  The biggest takeaway for me, is his note about where to look for credible scientific information

EXCERPT: “The fact is that there is huge correlation between HFCS consumption and obesity, and all sorts of obesity related conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Nobody disputes that. The problem arises when people make the common error of mistaking correlation for causation. There’s an equally valid correlation between obesity and dirty dishes. The cause of obesity and obesity related diabetes is overeating more calories than you burn. It makes no difference whether you overeat food containing pure cane sugar, food containing HFCS, or organic spinach: Too many calories is too many calories, and you’ll become obese and suffer the same obesity related complications no matter what you ate to get you there. Fat is fat.”

I do want to have a dialogue, as I acknowledge that there are concerns out there that need to be addressed. But I am not sure if copying and pasting my e-mails into your blog and then pushing them out through all of your social channels is the way to accomplish that.   Specifically comments like this one, “Let There Be Bite: Oh boy, just got another letter… this one’s good too. More to come!”  Honestly,  these kinds of comments make me feel that you don’t want to have a genuine conversation at all.

I hope you can find these other views helpful.

Therese Pompa

Mar. 22 2011 |
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