High-Fructose Corn Syrup Unfairly Maligned, Says The New York Times

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A story in Sunday's New York Times debunks the idea that there is something uniquely unhealthy about high-fructose corn syrup–specifically, that it contributes to obesity in a way that other caloric sweeteners do not. To begin with, the fructose/glucose breakdown of HFCS is essentially the same as cane sugar's. And contrary to Fat Land author Greg Critser's argument that the cheapness of HFCS led to bigger servings, a Pepsi spokesman says "the cost of the sweetener in the product is extremely minimal to the point of not even mattering."

Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, sums up the case against HFCS this way: "There's no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity. If there was no high-fructose corn syrup, I don't think we would see a change in anything important."

It's striking that scientists credited with pointing out the unique dangers of HFCS say they did not really do that. The co-author of a 2004 paper that noted the parallel between rising obesity and rising HFCS consumption says it was just a "suggestion…a theory meant to spur science, but it's quite possible that it may be found out not to be true….I don't think there should be a perception that high-fructose corn syrup has caused obesity until we know more." A Procter & Gamble scientist cited by Critser says the idea that the cheapness of HFCS contributed obesity was "just a hypothesis, without any data to back it up."

For me, the clincher was that even the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Michael Jacobson, who rarely misses an opportunity to spread alarm about the food Americans consume, "never supported the notion that high-fructose corn syrup was a unique contributor to obesity."

[Thanks to Mostafa Sabet for the link.]

NEXT: Does That Make John Walters the New Lester Maddox?

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  1. Is it HCFS or HFCS?

  2. Not only that, but the entire “obesity epidemic” itself has nothing to do with caloric intake at all, let alone caloric mix.

    People, especially kids, are gaining weight from exercising less, not from consuming more. Every times series study of the subject says so.

  3. And contrary to Fat Land author Greg Critser’s argument that the cheapness of HCFS led to bigger servings, a Pepsi spokesman says “the cost of the sweetener in the product is extremely minimal to the point of not even mattering.”

    This is kinda, well…bullshit. If it doesn’t matter, why have (almost?) all soft drink and fat free sald dressing makers gone from cane sugar to HFCS?

    I’m not saying HFCS is bad. I’m just pointing out an obvious lack of “truthiness.” It would take an idiot to believe a claim like that.

  4. Perhaps because the market has been so heavily distorted as a result of the feds subsidizing HFCS while slamming cane sugar with heavy tariffs?

  5. Come on. Everyone knows that The New York Times is the mouthpiece of Big Corn.

  6. Madpad, I’m no scientist, but I have a few possible alternative explanations. Maybe HCFS taste-tests better, maybe it has some kind of attribute that makes the nutrition labels look better, maybe it stores better, maybe it is easier to handle in the processing of the food. There are probably plenty of other valid reasons other than price.

  7. I’m with madpad. I don’t know that HFCS is any worse than cane sugar (maybe, maybe not), but if the cost didn’t matter then why make the switch? Taste? Most people seem to prefer colas with cane sugar.

    The cost of sweetener may very well be a minor cost, for all I know, but even minor costs are worth reducing if they can be done so easily. So I’m very skeptical that cost isn’t a factor here.

  8. [i]This is kinda, well…bullshit. If it doesn’t matter, why have (almost?) all soft drink and fat free sald dressing makers gone from cane sugar to HFCS?

    I’m not saying HFCS is bad. I’m just pointing out an obvious lack of “truthiness.” It would take an idiot to believe a claim like that.[/i]

    There’s a serious difference between the cost of sweetener being a factor in which sweetener one buys and the cost of sweetener being a factor in the overall cost of soda.

    If HFCS costs half of what cane sugar does, that’s enough of a reason for everyone to switch to it, but if the cost of sweetener is 0.0001% of the retail cost of soda (probably generous at that), cheaper sweetener is not going to lower the price of soda enough to matter in terms of how much people buy.

  9. I’m with madpad too. If there are positive qualities of HFCS that make it better than sugar in some way other than price, why don’t companies use HFCS in other countries? Coca-Cola uses cane sugar for the vast majority of its overseas soda manufactoring… if HFCS stored better/tastes better/processed better, why wouldn’t they make the change there too?

  10. Be honest, is this just a case of Reason trying to bait Dave W.?? Because I like it if it is.

    Paging thoreau and Dave, slugfest, party of two…

  11. Exactly, Crichton. He’s not saying that the cost of HFCS vs. sugar doesn’t influence whether they sweeten their sodas with one or the other. He’s saying the difference isn’t big enough to be the cause of $1.29 Double-Big-Gulps. A one cent-per-serving difference in price between one sweetener and the other will really move Coca-Cola’s cost basis, but it won’t do much to make you buy more soda.

  12. Libertarians should be anti-HFCS if only on the basis of the vast subsidies and government policy tinkering that go into corn production.

    Beyond that, the mono-culture of corn is only possible with massive application of (subsidized) petroleum-derived fertilizer and (subsidized) petroleum-derived pesticides. As a subsidized consumer of massive amounts of oil, corn also extracts a cost by helping drive up petrol prices. I would also hasten to add that the application of so much fertilizer is helping to poison our rivers and oceans and (as you well know) the corn industry pays nothing to clean this up (we pay the price of it)

    So FIE on corn and HFCS

  13. Be honest, is this just a case of Reason trying to bait Dave W.?? Because I like it if it is.

    Paging thoreau and Dave, slugfest, party of two…

  14. Maybe it’s because sugar had been demonized, and most folks don’t read “high fructose corn syrup” as being as eeeevil as “sugar.”

    I will note, too, that the perception of the “goodness” or “evil” of specific ingredients has been very heavily driven by the bastards at the Center for Junk Science in the Lawyers’ Interests.

  15. What Chrichton said. HFCS is cheaper to produce than cane sugar. Noone really seemed to mind the switch, so it got used more. There are tariffs for purchasing sugar (which is mainly produced outside the US) and the government subsidizes corn production- we make our own corn syrup. In other countries where sugar is more readily available and corn is less so, the average yearly consumption of cane sugar is double that of American’s, where their corn syrup intake is very low.

    So it’s not too hard to see why they switched. It was cheap.

  16. madpad: The difference between the cost of cane sugar and HFCS is not insignificant in choosing between sugar or HFCS. If you can save a few cents or a fraction of a cent on each unit produced, that adds up to real money for a major food manufacturer.

    But the cost difference is not significant when deciding how a big the portions should be. If you double portion sizes, you double the costs of all of your inputs. If sweeteners are a small part of that cost, it won’t make much of a difference.

    You also have to remember why sugar is more expensive than HFCS. We have some sugar that’s produced domestically at great expense and a quota on sugar imports. If the users of HFCS switched to sugar, the demand for sugar and its price would skyrocket. So while we might note that the price difference between sugar and HFCS is not prohibitively huge right now, the difference would be prohibitive if there were a significant shift away from HFCS use.

  17. Is there really any reason to believe that most people (in the U.S.) prefer colas with cane sugar? Sure, they switched from cane sugar to HFCS and some people prefer the former, but what’s the incentive for people who prefer HFCS to speak up? Would they even necessarily know?

    My guess is that most people in the U.S. don’t prefer colas with cane sugar. My guess is they’re indifferent and prefer what they are used to more than cane over HFCS or vice-versa.

    Cola companies have a much greater interest in knowing their customers than I do. One might point to the New Coke fiasco as an example of a cola company screwing up, but the company that made the mistake was able to, in the long run, regain more than they lost even thought they switched to HFCS.

  18. I apologize in advance for the argument that will come about due to me sending this to Jacob.

    I do dislike the fact that they don’t say WHY HFCS is cheaper than cane sugar.

  19. Libertarians shouldn’t be against HFCS, we should be against HFCS subsidies and sugar quotas. Which, as of the last Tin Foil Memo at least, we are.

  20. Mo,

    It’s simple.

    Sugar is mostly imported, and there are high tariffs on it, which also keeps domestic prices high.

    Corn syrup is almost entirely grown/manufactured in the US, and corn is highly subsidized.

    Thus corn syrup is cheaper.

  21. Regarding no one noticing the switch. Coke made the switch when reintroducing “Coke Classic” so there was a gap in the memory of exactly what the old formula tasted like.

  22. This is kinda, well…bullshit. If it doesn’t matter, why have (almost?) all soft drink and fat free sald dressing makers gone from cane sugar to HFCS?

    That was my opinion when I read that too…

    Also, most people I know who adamantly prefer Coke as their cola of choice also adamantly believe that Coke with cane sugar (the imports from Mexico) just taste better than the HFCS version.

    And to add to my anecdotal evidence….there was a story in the Chicago newspapers a year or so ago that discussed this same topic…

    It was a story about ethnic neighbodhoods and some of the impacts they were having on consumer choices and they discussed the fact that in many hispanic stores/markets/restaurants there will at times maybe two coolers with Coke…American Coke and imported from mexico and OVERWHELMINGLY the American coke coolers remained full, while the imports were almost impossible to keep up with demand and most people who commented also expressed the belief that the mexican sugar version just tasted better as well…

    So if all these consumers really believed it tasted better before HFCS, and the cost is the same to the point that it isn’t really a concern, then why would they risk giving their customers a product they deem inferior since all other costs seem to be equal?

    That makes me think the “sweetener costs are negligible” claims are a bit BS-ish.

  23. This is kinda, well…bullshit. If it doesn’t matter, why have (almost?) all soft drink and fat free sald dressing makers gone from cane sugar to HFCS?

    That was my opinion when I read that too…

    Also, most people I know who adamantly prefer Coke as their cola of choice also adamantly believe that Coke with cane sugar (the imports from Mexico) just taste better than the HFCS version.

    And to add to my anecdotal evidence….there was a story in the Chicago newspapers a year or so ago that discussed this same topic…

    It was a story about ethnic neighbodhoods and some of the impacts they were having on consumer choices and they discussed the fact that in many hispanic stores/markets/restaurants there will at times maybe two coolers with Coke…American Coke and imported from mexico and OVERWHELMINGLY the American coke coolers remained full, while the imports were almost impossible to keep up with demand and most people who commented also expressed the belief that the mexican sugar version just tasted better as well…

    So if all these consumers really believed it tasted better before HFCS, and the cost is the same to the point that it isn’t really a concern, then why would they risk giving their customers a product they deem inferior since all other costs seem to be equal?

    That makes me think the “sweetener costs are negligible” claims are a bit BS-ish.

  24. I bet Dave W. reacts to this like I react to a Ron Bailey blog entry about human caused global warming.

    Hmmm? Anybody else notice the corelation to the increase in global warming and the use of HFCS?

    Personally, I suspect gay sex and gay marriage to be a major cause of global warming. It has something to do with gay guys always looking so HOT. (Just ask Herrick and his balls.)

  25. Aw, man… we’re throwing an HFCS party, and Dave W’s not showing up! Poo.

    As for the difference in flavor between sodas made with HFCS and those made with sugar, I know of at least one vendor that imports familiar soda brands from Mexico to serve the market that prefers the taste of sugar-based formulations…

  26. Mo,

    Also, per Snopes, it is not true that Coke made the switch to HFCS in the wake of the New Coke debacle. Coca-Cola replaced half the sugar with HFCS in 1980 and by 6 months prior to “New Coke” it was all-HFCS.

    http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/newcoke.asp

    FWIW, various companies have attempted to introduce higher-priced all-sugar soft drinks into the American market. The one I recall was RC’s “Royal Crown Draft,” in 1994 or so, which was heavily marketed (at least in New York) but died a rapid death.

    From wikipedia: “In the mid-1990s, the company released Royal Crown Draft, billed as a “premium” cola and using pure sugarcane. Offered only in 12-ounce bottles, the cola’s sales were disappointing and it was quickly discontinued with the exceptions of Australia and New Zealand.”

  27. ChiTom,
    Is the American soda in glass bottles? I know a lot of people that prefer glass to plastic (like me). Of course, I prefer cane/beet sugar to HFCS, so glass bottle Mexican Coke is the bees-knees to me.

  28. Whole Foods sells cane-sugar based soda under one of their 365 labels, probably “365 Organic”.

  29. Mmmm Dublin Dr. Pepper.

    Everytime I head back home, I have to pick up a six-pack.

  30. Ooo… I love it when breaking news relates somehow to an ongoing H&R conversation!

  31. The last time I picked up a botella at the taqueria, it contained HFCS according to the label, not cane sugar.
    Either way, I prefer glass.

  32. Count me a cane sugar fan. My husband had a three week long trial in Wichita Falls last October and brought me a six-pack of Dublin Dr. Pepper every weekend. I’ve hardly touched the regular stuff since.

    I have a pet theory as to why the higher-priced cane sugar sodas don’t sell. It’s that some people have replaced water in their diets entirely with soda. (My husband is one of those, despite by best efforts.) I drink only a couple sodas each week, and only stuff I think tastes good enough to justify the empty calories. (I really like Stewart’s Root Beer, as well as Dr. Pepper.) For people like Steve, though, who need the fluids, the cost differential between premium cane-sugar ones the ordinary sweetened kind makes enought of a difference to go with the cheapies. My own highly unscientific observation is that he’s not that usual, either. Thus, quantity defeats quality.

  33. Karen,

    FWIW, I’ve had Coke both ways (sugar in Mexico) and I actually prefer the HFCS. To my taste, the cane makes it taste a little too close to candy for me to see it as a refreshing drink. However, I think this is probably just because I’ve gotten so used to the taste of the HFCS version.

  34. I’d bet another reason that people have accepted Corn Coke is the introduction of diet drinks. When corn and diet replaced sugar, people had the opportunity to drink high calorie crap or no calorie crap.

    My order of preference is Sugar > Diet > Corn. If there was no diet, I’d probably be mailing away for some Mexican Coke rather than drinking the corn. If a bunch of people did the same, a strong market for sugar would probably develop.

    Perhaps another problem is that Americans have horrible taste. Most countries seem to have a better selection of soft drinks.

  35. I went to Huntington Beach on July 3rd and I can assure you that the fat Nazi’s are right. 80% of the kids on that beach were fat pigs and were happily stuffing their fat faces with every manner of Oreo, chip, fruit snack, Coke, Hershey bar, and whatever they could get into their little mouths. I was positively shocked at the gross number of obese children and adults on that beach. Anecdotal evidence to be sure………….

  36. I am skeptical of Pepsi’s assertation that the cost of corn syrup is of zero consequence. I’m pretty sure that corn syrup is way cheaper than sugar in the US. In Mexico, it works the other way, corn syrup is more expensive. Both of these facts are related to government distortions of the market.

    My two thumbs waaaay up review of Mexican Coke is here.

    But you better hurry because sugar in Mexican Coke is likely going away thanks to some pressure from the US. Can’t post a comment with two links at H&R so go to the link above and then follow the link there to the sugar story.

    I think the conspiracy here was to make the switch from sugar to corn syrup back in the days of NEW COKE. Timing seems right. Bring out NEW COKE with corn syrup. It isn’t a big hit. Pull it off the market. Put OLD COKE back on the market sans sugar. Eh? Eh? Come on………

  37. HFCS is still the leading cause of post-cola smacky-mouth syndrome.

    PCSMS. Won’t you please give?

  38. Okay Brian, you win, but I’m still suspicious of New Coke. There has to be a conspiracy about something there. 🙂

  39. Perhaps another problem is that Americans have horrible taste.

    Definitely. Don’t get me started on beer.

  40. I worked in the bottling industry around the time of the switch and there were two popular theories about the reason for the switch.

    1. Financial – Government subsidies on corn/tariffs on sugar created a slight decrease in cost that would not be reflected in the retail price = more profits for syrup makers and bottlers

    2. Political/Patriotism – Increasing pressure from federal, state and local governments to buy American products from farmers in the Midwest. Underlying threat that non compliance would result in additional regulations, tariffs and loss of tax breaks due to the risks that the use of imported sugar may pose to consumer health and overall US economy.

    #2 is my choice as we have seen that same process used to force drivers to use ethanol and keep overseas prescription drugs from being made available to US residents. Never underestimate the power of the AG lobby in Congress, I have little doubt that they were behind the switch to HFCS and that soft drink companies were given an offer they couldn’t refuse.

  41. Let’s not forget why we have so much HFCS in the first place: sugar tarriffs.

  42. Cost is obviously the issue here, otherwise, Coke and Pepsi wouldn’t use sugar to sweeten their sodas in other countries (like Mexico) that lack our insane sugar tariffs. Go out West and you can sometimes find the Real Thing with the real thing in it.

  43. The problem with RC Cola is that its brand name has been so devalued (e.g., the sterotype of the RC-drinking, Moon Pie-eating Southern bubba) that no one is going believe in a premium RC Cola unless RC triples its ad budget and is willing to wait 10 years for results.

    And I say that as someone who likes RC well enough that I switched to it during the dark days of New Coke.

    Of course, now Dr. Pepper is about the only soda I drink. And, mostly, I drink Milo’s Sweet Tea, which has 100 percent actual sugar in it.

  44. Thanks for the info, Ruthless.

  45. The Times, as usual, is barking up the wrong soapbox. HCS is the real culprit.

  46. “Thanks for the info, Ruthless.”

    thoreau,
    Are ya’ll holdin’ smacky prisoner over there in grylliade?

  47. Of course, for a real conspiracy, we need to examine what they put in Diet Coke. I have friends who will drink three cans in a lunch hour. Each one can finish a 12-pack in a three hour dinner party. I’m convinced they use an opium derivative to sweeten that stuff.

  48. …the fructose/glucose breakdown of HFCS is essentially the same as cane sugar’s.

    True but HFCS is like sucrose that’s been hydrolized already into glucose and fructose. I suppose that’s supposed to mean it gets absorbed into the blood stream faster hence it has a higher glycemic index. Holy diabetes!

    You can make a good partially inverted sugar syrup from sucrose by boiling sucrose syrup with a small amount of lemon juice or cream of tartar for a half hour or so. Yummy.

    I remember the regular Coke tasting a bit funny all of a sudden and would like to have it again the old way. For some reason it took on a bit of a bitter/sour aftertaste.

    Can your order Mexican Coke online or do I have to contact my local distributor?

  49. I thought Aspertame was inventent by the Nazis in WWII while looking for a more effective nerve agent. That’s what I heard anyway.

  50. My “favorite” fact from the quoted NYT article was that annual per-capita soft drink consumption in the USA has increased by forty percent since 1980 to an average of 440 12 oz. cans per person! Whether sweetened with cane sugar or with HFCS, that is a very unhealthy number. The villans are us.

  51. Corn receives subsidies. Sugar is subject to tariff. These are both sad and annoying.

    That said, I don’t understand why it matters. Why are people saying things like “People only “accepted” the switch because they were deceived,” or “My third cousin is from Mexico, and he tells me that everyone there enjoys their Coke more because it has sugar in it.” Whaa? Nobody, read, nobody in the real world cares what the sweetner is unless it screws up the overall food experience above some level.

    There is apparently a bizarre underworld where changing sweetners constitutes market failure, and, by God, consumers have a right to know when THEIR formula gets changed. Do these same people keep track of the nylon content of their Hanes?

  52. I take statements like “My third cousin is from Mexico, and he tells me that everyone there enjoys their Coke more because it has sugar in it” to mean that sugar tastes better, not that people derive satisfaction from knowing that it’s sugar rather than corn syrup.

    I’ve never done a taste test, so I don’t know if the sugar does in fact taste better, but I hear it a lot.

    And I like what Paul said:
    My “favorite” fact from the quoted NYT article was that annual per-capita soft drink consumption in the USA has increased by forty percent since 1980 to an average of 440 12 oz. cans per person! Whether sweetened with cane sugar or with HFCS, that is a very unhealthy number. The villans are us.

    I would only note that a significant portion of that soda consumption is probably diet soda. Of course, that just means that we’re contaminating our precious bodily fluids with artificial sweeteners 🙂

  53. Nobody, read, nobody in the real world cares what the sweetner is unless it screws up the overall food experience above some level.

    Fanta tastes better with sugar. Deal. 🙂

    There is apparently a bizarre underworld where changing sweetners constitutes market failure

    No, it’s market molestation by the government, man.

  54. True but HFCS is like sucrose that’s been hydrolized already into glucose and fructose. I suppose that’s supposed to mean it gets absorbed into the blood stream faster hence it has a higher glycemic index. Holy diabetes!

    If there is a difference in GI, it is probably trivial. Honey, like HFCS, has almost equal parts glucose and fructose (thus very similar in composition to HFCS or hydrolyzed sucrose), but has a GI very similar to sucrose.

  55. Honey, like HFCS, has almost equal parts glucose and fructose (thus very similar in composition to HFCS or hydrolyzed sucrose), but has a GI very similar to sucrose.

    You’re gonna have to stop interjecting facts into this discussion. If that sort of thing caught on then Hit and Run would cease to function!

    Seriously, though, thanks for pointing that out. Do you have a cite for that fact? It might be useful in future discussions.

  56. You can make a good partially inverted sugar syrup from sucrose by boiling sucrose syrup with a small amount of lemon juice or cream of tartar for a half hour or so. Yummy.

    Its funny, but there are people in the baking/candy-making biz who knock HFCS, but don’t understand that, compositionally and nutrionally, it is the same thing as the invert sugars they use to make candy. Both are essentially equal parts fructose and glucose, but in one case it is created through the conversion of glucose to fructose, while in the other case it is created through the hydrlysis of sucrose. But its the same thing.

  57. Seriously, though, thanks for pointing that out. Do you have a cite for that fact? It might be useful in future discussions.

    Sure. Re: the composition of honey, this page gives USDA data.
    http://www.beesource.com/pov/usda/table1beekUSA82.htm

    Average from 504 samples is given as 38% fructose (aka levulose) and 31% glucose (aka dextrose), with about 7% lactose and small amounts of dextrose and other sugars.

  58. Nobody, read, nobody in the real world cares what the sweetner is unless it screws up the overall food experience above some level.

    Damn straight Jason. Look at those recipe fascists. Brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, honey, caramelized sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, honey … FEH! Just tell me how much sweetner to put in, I’ll decide which one.

  59. “I take statements like “My third cousin is from Mexico, and he tells me that everyone there enjoys their Coke more because it has sugar in it” to mean that sugar tastes better, not that people derive satisfaction from knowing that it’s sugar rather than corn syrup.

    I’ve never done a taste test, so I don’t know if the sugar does in fact taste better, but I hear it a lot.”

    Put me on the side of revealed preference. If sugar were an amazing competitive edge, it would be used. Nobody noticed the change to HFCS because 99% of people aren’t that sensitive to the taste differences.

  60. Franklin Harris, I, too, turned to RC when Coke betrayed my trust. It’s not quite as good as Coke, but it’s better than Pepsi. I wish they’d tested RC Premium in my neck of the woods, because I’d definitely a sugared soda kind of guy.

  61. Mo:

    The part of my sentence on the back side of “unless” is pretty critical …

  62. Put me on the side of revealed preference. If sugar were an amazing competitive edge, it would be used.

    People make similar claims regarding the differences between beet-derived sucrose and cane-derived sucrose, though I’ve used hundreds of pounds of both and never detected a difference, and even though both are 99.99% pure sucrose.

  63. Put me on the side of revealed preference. If sugar were an amazing competitive edge, it would be used. Nobody noticed the change to HFCS because 99% of people aren’t that sensitive to the taste differences.

    I don’t think it’s an amazing competitive edge, since the tastes of the rest of the recipe dominate the taste. There isn’t a chance for revealed preferences because it isn’t HFCS Coke vs. sugar Coke, it’s Coke vs. Pepsi. Pepsi switched to HFCS not because it was losing customers due to preference, but because of price competition.

    When subsidies allow you to save 1/3 of your sweetner costs with essentially no risk due to lack of competition within a prefered formula, preferences won’t be revealed. Even if sales would go up with sugar instead of HFCS, I doubt they would make up for the loss due to higher costs.

    The part of my sentence on the back side of “unless” is pretty critical …

    I guarantee that if I replace brown sugar for regular sugar in my recipes, the difference will be slight enough that no one will notice/mind too much. However, it may not taste as good with the switch.

  64. Garth: Libertarians should be anti-HFCS if only on the basis of the vast subsidies and government policy tinkering that go into corn production.

    Uh…sugar subsidies (and trade restrictions) are at least as pernicious. You should be drinking diet cola (sweetened with splendid). You go for it, too. We need staunch libertarians to stand up and make a point.

    Me, I think, you know, you go to war with the Pepsi you have….

  65. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the outrage. Did you guys all read the same recipe book, the one by Sutter Cane?

    I keed. I guess this is just a form of market mavenism in an area I wouldn’t normally associate with maven like behavior.

  66. Mo:

    That’s kinda my point. This is a lot of outrage over something that is truly marginal to the overall experience.

  67. Jason,
    I think part of the reason for it is that a lot of appreciation of taste is the suble hints. So while a well-done steak is far inferior to a medium-rare steak, where the rub you use will make only a slight difference. The difference between two steaks cooked the same way with different rubs can make a world of difference.

    Coke vs. Pepsi is well-done vs. medium
    Sugar vs. HFCS is a 5 spice rub vs. a lemon juice, pepper rub

  68. “Sugar vs. HFCS is a 5 spice rub vs. a lemon juice, pepper rub”

    But, aren’t we talking about soda and twinkies here? I love good food, but I am just not equipped to detect this difference in the types of food in question.

  69. I noticed that Coke seemed to taste different around 1980. At the time, I attributed the difference to my changing taste buds (I was 13 or 14) rather than to anything else. It wasn’t until I was in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 that I had my carbonated epiphany. Even then, all I thought was that the Coke there tasted really good compared to the stuff I normally drank. After I got back, I found out that the primary difference between Malaysian Coke and American Coke was the use of sugar instead of HFCS. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I definitely didn’t start with any experimenter biases.

    Now that I think about it, I recall thinking that the fountain Cokes at Disney World in the early 80s were superior to store-bought Cokes. I wonder if they were still using a sugar-based Coke syrup after the change? It’s definitely a subtle distinction, because I knew only that I liked certain variations of Coke better, but I couldn’t and can’t tell you specifically why.

  70. Seriously, though, thanks for pointing that out. Do you have a cite for that fact? It might be useful in future discussions.

    Google “sucrose” and a multitude of sites are listed describing the chemistry.

    I’ll just cite Wikipedia for starters:
    Sucrase

  71. Oops. Never mind. You were asking about honey! I just arose from the dead.

  72. Americans have horrible taste. Most countries seem to have a better selection of soft drinks.

    Yeah, like the Scottish orange liquid bubblegum that is Irn-Bru. (Or Tango or Tizer.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irn-Bru

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