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Sugar Swappers

February 11, 2015

For someone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, I’ve been eating a lot of sugar. Should I be eating less? Probably. But sugar sneaks its way into so many things and in so many different forms.

Concentrated grape juice is sugar. Lactose is sugar. Brown rice syrup doesn’t sound like sugar, but it totally is, and in fact it’s one that probably contains higher levels of arsenic than you might expect. Of course there is the dreaded industrial sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, too.

Then there is just straight sugar. Except did you know it can come from two different plants? There is cane sugar and beet sugar. Do you know which one of these two would drive the Food Babe into an apoplectic fit? That would be the beet sugar. Sugar beets are one of those newfangled GMO crops where the corporations that produce them say the seeds are different enough from regular crops to be patentable, but yield plants similar enough to regular crops to not require special labeling. Go fig.

GMO beet sugar is insidious, but there is something equally insidious and sweet hiding in plain sight.

Sucralose is sneaking its way into everything. Just last night I was informed that Seagrams ginger ale is one of the sweetener’s latest victims. Technically it’s not artificial. But it sure doesn’t taste natural. We can call it a low-calorie sweetener if you wish.

To me, and to many others, it just tastes nasty.

Maybe to dieters who are used to the taste of awful low-calorie sweeteners, this is an improvement. Or maybe the kids today are so accustomed to vile tasting beverages thanks to growing up on cans of energy drinks that they are totally immune to the off flavors that come from this sugar substitute. Whatever the cause, something is making brand managers think that they can swap some sugar out in exchange for sucralose and nobody will notice.

(It’s also possible that these brand managers grew up on those same energy drinks.)

Well, we notice. My friend Laurie noticed last night when she cracked upon a can of soda she bought from the vending machine, only to get a very unpleasant taste in her mouth.

This happened to me with those damn pretzels. And thankfully I looked at the ingredients of Sierra Mist at the store when I noticed the brand’s logo had changed. The stuff is even in Thomas 100% whole grain English muffins.

The good news is that some brands are going the other direction. Capri Sun will be replacing HFCS with sugar in its pouches. Now while that’s a move in the right direction, do you suspect they’ll be using cane sugar or GMO beet sugar for their sweetener? In the brand’s lower calorie beverage packs, it will trade out the sucralose for stevia. I’m not sure that’s actually any better.

Here’s my beef. If a product contains a sugar substitute, it should be called out. On the front of the package. Prominently. Anything else is deceptive, and once upon a time there used to be consumer protections against shenanigans like this. Whatever happened to those?

Now it’s not good enough to ask for something that’s made with real sugar. If you want to avoid all the baggage that comes with genetically modified crops, you need to ask for real cane sugar, and nothing else.

Stuff like this makes me want to go off the grid. Or move to some other country where their legislators don’t find requiring food workers to wash their hands a too onerous restriction.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack C permalink
    February 11, 2015 11:19 am

    Serious question time – what’s your beef with GMO beet sugar? You say it’s insidious, but there’s little evidence to suggest that the product itself is harmful. The business practices of the companies patenting the crops are surely insidious, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the product will harm you. You can oppose GMOs on political grounds but still recognize the benefits that some of these products have – GMOs with resistance to disease and drought, for instance, have helped save countless lives around the world.

  2. February 11, 2015 12:35 pm

    Yeah! Capri Sun is switching the manner in which they poison our children with a product marketed directly towards them!… Now they can go down the slow road to obesity with a slightly different version of the same exact damn thing to placate self satisfied fanatic food activists! Yay!

  3. February 11, 2015 12:37 pm

    Also, the Japanese government (among others) has spent vast time and treasure affirming that stevia is safe as a sweetner (http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21876). I would much rather have society consume something that tastes slightly less good then deal with the implications of mass sugar (in any form, lets stop pretending that sugars are magically different from one another) consumption.

  4. Billy permalink
    February 11, 2015 1:52 pm

    Where is the empirical evidence that GMOs are harmful? Bueller? Bueller?

    And I know you all know what empirical means, but I want to state the definition so there’s no misunderstanding of my point.

    Empirical: Verifiable by observation or experience rather than by theory or pure logic.

  5. Doug permalink
    February 12, 2015 10:14 am

    Re: the link to your entry about Herr’s pretzels — did you reply to their non-response, or let it go? I’ve been in similar situations lately, and maybe I’m a wimp, or maybe life’s too short, but my general take is ‘why bother’.

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