Highly subsidized and plentiful in supply, high fructose corn syrup has been the sweetener of choice among American food manufacturers since the early 1970s. Since then, its presence has become almost universal. HFCS is found in everything from carbonated soft drinks to less obvious products like commercial sliced bread.
Core health and wellness consumers have long placed corn syrup on their Ten Most Wanted List of ingredients to ban. Most protests fell on deaf ears, until now. Amid alarming increases in the rates of obesity, diabetes and diet-related health problems, natural food retailers are taking a leadership role on the issue.
Most recently, PCC Natural Markets, which operates eight natural and organic stores in the Seattle area, announced the elimination of high fructose corn syrup from all of the products on its shelves.
“HFCS is a highly processed sweetener with no nutritive value and has been linked to many potential damaging effects on health. Healthier alternatives exist,” PCC spokeswoman Diana Crane told us.
The action wasn’t as arduous an undertaking as it sounds, since the chain’s consumers already exhibited more healthful shopping habits, and were aware of the issue. Indeed, the ultra-cheap sweetener had already been shut out of all but 1% of the retailer’s offerings, according to Crane.
PCC isn’t even the first retailer to take this step. Back in 2004, Asheville, North Carolina-based Earth Fare phased HFCS out of its nine natural food stores.
To be fair, corn syrup is not the only cause of the country’s health problems. Neither is it likely the biggest one. But its near ubiquitous presence in many foods has more consumers questioning whether all this sweetness, in every food item, is necessary.
It’s safe to say that such bans won’t start cropping up in mainstream markets anytime soon. Like sodium, which we covered in a blog entry last week, HFCS is just too enmeshed in our food system for conventional retailers to cut. And remember, not every consumer dislikes the sweetener.
At the same time, rumblings like this in the health and wellness industry are hard to ignore. Could a label reading “Made without HFCS” be the next “Free of Hormones and Antibiotics”?