MIKE PESCA, host:
The Corn Refiners Association, we know they're as corny as Kansas in August, but are they as high as a flag on the Fourth of July? I mean, they're trying to rebrand corn syrup.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #1: Whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, the body can't tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.
PESCA: High fructose corn syrup will be known as corn sugar if the corn people get their corn way.
Audrae Erickson is president of the Corn Refiners Association. Thanks for joining me.
Ms. AUDRAE ERICKSON (President, Corn Refiners Association): Thank you.
PESCA: So for purpose of this interview, can I call it high fructose corn syrup or do you need me to call it corn sugar from now on?
Ms. ERICKSON: Well, either is fine. Right now, Americans will see high fructose corn syrup on the ingredient label. The challenge is they think it's high in fructose when it's actually not.
PESCA: It's not high in fructose?
Ms. ERICKSON: That's correct. In fact, when you walk down a grocery store aisle and you pick up a jar of spaghetti, a whole-wheat loaf bread, you're actually getting less fructose than if that product contained sugar. That's because it's using our low-fructose sweetener.
PESCA: So is the message here essentially corn syrup, it's just as bad for you as sugar?
Ms. ERICKSON: Actually, your body cannot distinguish between table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and that's the finding of the American Dietetic Association, the nation's leading nutrition experts.
PESCA: Let me play one other clip. This is part of the branding campaign where you have a series of commercials where people object to high fructose corn syrup, but then you have them essentially not knowing why they're objecting. Let's hear one of those commercials.
(Soundbite of advertisement)
Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (as Character) Wow, you don't care what the kids eat, huh?
Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (as Character) Excuse me?
Unidentified Woman #1: (as Character) That has high fructose corn syrup in it.
Unidentified Woman #2: (as Character) And?
Unidentified Woman #1: (as Character) You know what they say about it?
Unidentified Woman #2: (as Character) Like what?
Unidentified Woman #1: (as Character) I mean, it's - that it's made from corn, doesn't have artificial ingredients and, like, sugar is fine in moderation.
PESCA: That's the message that you're hitting, that it's fine in moderation and it's just like sugar. But the part of it where the one mother didn't know what was wrong with corn syrup, for that ad to resonate with people, doesn't that have to be the case, you find that people object to it, but they don't know why they're objecting to it?
Ms. ERICKSON: Well, and that's the case in this situation. What we have is an ingredient that most consumers don't really understand. They know it's a sweetener made from corn, but then there's been this huge urban legend that's swirling on the Internet, and all this stuff that anybody can cook up is thrown at high fructose corn syrup erroneously.
You know, corn syrup's been in our grandma's pantry, in our great-grandma's pantry and hopefully in our current pantries for generations. It's something that we've grown up with. We understand it.
But then, along comes this high fructose version, what's that? And that's what's misleading consumers.
PESCA: And so, is the next branding campaign to replace the phrase as American as baseball and apple pie with as American as baseball and corn sugar?
Ms. ERICKSON: You know...
PESCA: Are you going that far?
Ms. ERICKSON: ...we could borrow you. We could borrow you, I think. You have potential.
PESCA: I've got some ideas here. Well, thanks a lot. Audrae Erickson is the president of the Corn Refiners Association.
Thank you, Audrae.
Ms. ERICKSON: Thank you.
PESCA: We also talked to Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He confirmed that high fructose corn syrup isn't any worse for you nutritionally than sugar, but he did say this:
Mr. MICHAEL JACOBSON (Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest): The term corn sugars, though, may also be misleading, suggesting that the product is kind of squeezed right out of corn rather than being produced through an industrial process.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.