The product is General Mills’ Vanilla Chex, an updated version of the Chex cereal sold in most conventional grocery and discount stores for many years. The front of the box clearly states that the product contains “no high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), but turn it over to read the ingredient list and there it is – the new isolated fructose.
Why is that a problem? According to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), there’s been a sneaky name change. The term ‘fructose’ is now being used to denote a product that was previously known as HFCS-90, meaning it is 90 percent pure fructose. Compare this to what is termed ‘regular’ HFCS, which contains either 42 or 55 percent fructose, and you will know why General Mills is so eager to keep you in the dark.
“A third product, HFCS-90, is sometimes used in natural and ‘light’ foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Syrups with 90% fructose will not state high fructose corn syrup on the label [anymore], they will state ‘fructose’ or ‘fructose syrup’.”
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a food ingredient that has become widely used as a cheaper replacement for natural sugar during the past 40 years. That 40 year time span has also seen skyrocketing incidence of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. While as yet it has not been established that HFCS is the direct culprit, the circumstantial evidence is hard to overlook.
Nailing Down Links Between HFCS and Bad Health Outcomes
A study just published investigated the effects of various sugar solutions on lab rats. It found that the isolated fructose solution, as opposed to other sugars tested, resulted in a doubling of circulating triglycerides.
Another study published in late summer found that consumption of HFCS-55 negatively impacts hippocampal function, metabolic outcomes, and neuroinflammation when consumed in excess during the adolescent period of development.
Yet even more research published this year found higher-than-expected amounts of isolated fructose in beverages they tested. Popular drinks made with HFCS contain 50% more isolated fructose than glucose. They concluded that beverages made with HFCS have a sugar profile very different than sucrose (table sugar), in which fructose and glucose are equivalent and balanced. Additionally, this research team suggested that current dietary analyses may underestimate actual fructose consumption.
Consumer watchdog group Citizens for Health has petitioned the FDA asking for labeling specifying the amounts of fructose in products containing HFCS, as well as notification to food producers that any product containing HFCS at a higher level than 55% fructose is considered to be adulterated under federal regulations and cannot be sold in interstate commerce.
How do General Mills and other Big Food companies navigate such issues? Bill Bonvie, writing for Food Identity Theft, notes that corn refiners are:
“simply eliminating the high fructose corn syrup designation for the laboratory sweetener that’s nine-tenths fructose and calling it what it really is: fructose. And that’s how a processed-food product like Vanilla Chex that contains “fructose”, a substance that, according to the corn refiners, used to be called HFCS-90, can now declare itself to be high fructose corn syrup-free.”
As for General Mills, it has a history of deceiving the public. Earlier this year, it was prohibited from labeling its products that contain synthetic ingredients as ‘natural.” The Fortune 500 company reached a settlement agreement with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that would prevent it from designating its 30 Nature Valley products, which include granola bars, crispy squares, and trail mix bars- as 100% natural.
But General Mills is not alone in deception. CSPI has also been successful in removing the ‘natural’ labels from 7Up (Dr Pepper Snapple), Crystal Light (Kraft Foods), and Edy’s Ice Cream (Dreyer’s).
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
If you want to engage in a healthful diet and you don’t want to be fooled by Big Food, it is essential that you read the labels of the products you buy. If you see ingredients that compromise health or that you can’t pronounce or understand, walk away from all the products made by that company. It is clear that company does not have your best interests at heart. Buy only from companies that have demonstrated over and over that they care more about you than they do about their bottom line.