“Sugar is good for you!” – and for the people who sell sugar

I just love this. Guess what the Sugar Association recommends in its publication called “Pleasing Picky Eaters’ Taste Buds”? Apparently, “youngsters may find vegetables sprinkled with sugar more enjoyable to eat”. Of course they will. Personally, I’d find corrugated cardboard sprinkled with sugar more enjoyable to eat, too. That does not make it good for me.

And under the “Don’t Worry, Mom” section, the Sugar Association reassures us:

“The good news from dietitians is that adding sugar to fruits, vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods can make their taste, texture and appearance more appealing to children.”

Really?  What credible dietitian on earth would recommend this goofy advice?

Many of us parents have found just the opposite, in fact: children who learn the real taste of healthy “fruits, vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods” from infancy don’t demand sugar poured over all of it. And if you do introduce sugar-covered food, don’t ever expect your kid to eat it when it’s NOT covered with sugar.

Don’t get me wrong – I used to love a gooey Tim Hortons maple dip as much as anybody else who loves sugary treats, but I freely admit that there is virtually nothing good to be said about sugar’s nutritional value, no matter how much money you pay your lobby group to insist otherwise.

The disturbing story behind the Sugar Association (and other industry lobby groups) is that consumers read the marketing schtick, believe it, and buy more of their products. I once saw a woman at the Minneapolis airport pouring Coke into her baby’s bottle, for example.

This year, the Sugar Association is calling any official government recommendation to reduce daily sugar consumption “impractical, unrealistic, and not grounded in the body of evidence.” And such recommendations might significantly reduce the number of mothers pouring Coke into those baby bottles.

Make no mistake. The declared mission of the Sugar Association is: “to promote the consumption of sugar”.

The mission of most industry lobby groups includes promotion of the consumption of ___  (fill in the blank here).

  • The Canned Food Alliance pushes canned foods.
  • The International Bottled Water Association pushes bottled water.
  • The National Dairy Council pushes . . . well, you get my drift.

Each corporate lobby group is generously sponsored by their respective industry members and, to nobody’s surprise, each will say or do whatever it takes to help protect their stakeholders’ interests.

But what savvy consumers need to do is to consider the source when exposed to the “facts” from any of these industry lobbyists.

Here’s an example, speaking of the National Dairy Council:  this lobby group was forced to retract their claims that consuming dairy products makes people lose weight more rapidly after they lost a 2007 lawsuit launched by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  Their successful NDC Got Milk? marketing campaign had based its claims of health and weight loss on University of Tennessee studies done by Dr. Michael Zemel – a researcher who has so far received $1.68 million from the NDC.

But for its pure entertainment value for the non-gullible, it’s hard to beat Sugar Association statements like:

“Find out what the ideal breakfast includes and find four tasty breakfast recipes that include all-natural sugar for a healthy start to your day.”

Gee. “All-natural sugar”.  Must be good for our health if it’s “all-natural”, right?

Here’s another, from their publication called: “Should You Be Concerned About Your Child Eating Sugar?”

“Some academic institutions, nutrition experts and media professionals have begun to warn consumers that less sugar does not necessarily mean fewer calories or improved nutrition.”

Again, which “academic institutions”? Which nutrition “experts”?  Which “media professionals?” And do you think the National Enquirer qualifies as a “media professional”?

Here in Canada, the Canadian Sugar Institute (CSI) insists there is no evidence that sugar at current levels of intake displaces other nutrients in our diet.

In fact, they even claim that “when sugar intakes are very low, nutrient inadequacies can occur”, a warning that makes me want to run right out to Tim Hortons for a maple dip just to make sure my sugar intake doesn’t fall dangerously low.

The CSI also reassures us that, yes, sugar, like other carbohydrates, does contribute calories, but luckily it does not uniquely contribute to excess calories or weight gain”.

The CSI doesn’t call itself a lobby group. It’s a member of a weighty-sounding umbrella group called the Canadian Council On Food and Nutrition, which sounds pretty benign until you checkout their membership roster. It’s  made up of corporations that are very interested in teaching us about good nutrition –  like Monsanto, Pepsi, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, The Salt Institute, DowAgro Sciences (manufacturers of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and miticides, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company) and other nutrition experts.

Find more entertaining facts about sugar from the people who are paid to produce the facts.


8 thoughts on ““Sugar is good for you!” – and for the people who sell sugar

  1. Pingback: DiabetesWatch

  2. I love your thoughts.
    I can’t believe the Sugar Association says you can put sugar on fruits and vegetables. That’s just crazy in my opinion.

    More thoughts on marketing to children here.

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  4. Keep on nagging! The tide is turning and the food and beverage industries are on the defensive. Americans have never been fatter or sicker and we can’t seem to figure out why.

    ‘Common sense is not so common.’ -Voltaire

  5. Hurrah! Sugar is good for me, and hormone therapy will prevent heart disease, and lots of other exciting news courtesy of those who make money if I believe them…. 😉

  6. My mother recently gave me The Candy Book of 1941, an old cooking pamphlet published for the Culinary Arts Institute. The introduction has gems like:

    Until the beginning of the 19th century the art of making sweetmeats was practiced chiefly by physicians and apothecaries…”
    “Today, when it is pure, candy is recognized as a valuable food.”
    “Ability in the art of candymaking is an excellent aid to popularity.”

    Thanks for help and photographs go out to these, among others: Corn Products Refining Company, General Foods Corporation, H.J. Heinz Company, Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Irradiated Evaporated Milk institute, National Dairy Council, Pet Milk Company, The Borden Company.

    • Kathleen, thanks for sharing this vintage publication with us!

      I love this one: “Ability in the art of candymaking is an excellent aid to popularity.” They were oh-so-right!! The women in my office once lobbied to move a job interviewee’s application to the top of the short-list pile because her resumé listed “chocolate making” as one of her interests! That’s my kind of co-worker . . .

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