Hy-Vee announced they are removing additives to nearly a thousand of their products. That includes artificial flavors, colors, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCP). They are putting the products under a label called, "Clean, Honest Ingredients."
In a quick look of the history of HFCP: In 1983, it was labeled safe by the Food and Drug Administration, that was reaffirmed in 1996, then in 2008, the FDA said it could be called "natural" because it is a naturally refined sugar like sugar cane.
But there are a lot of campaigns that say high fructose corn syrup reacts differently in the human body.
Dean of Iowa State's College of Agriculture Wendy Wintersteen; however, says sugar is sugar, "It really doesn't matter if we're talking about corn syrup, or honey, or cane sugar. It's all sugar. And the body really handles that, metabolizes that all in the same way, with the same end result. So there is not a differentiation by the human body as you ingest that particular ingredient."
Wintersteen says because it is still sugar, it should be taken in moderation.
HFCS is a huge business in Iowa, 163 million bushels of corn grown here makes it, adding about $1.9 billion to the corn industry according to the Iowa Corn Growers.
Hy-Vee Group Vice President of Private Brands Eric Long explains why they're adding the new label, "I think consumers are becoming more aware. Really with the internet and and the ability to get information on demand, they're demanding transparency, they want to know what's in their product. So, we're trying to make that easy for them."
The Iowa Corn Growers are reaching out to the CEO of Hy-Vee, trying to get a meeting against what they call an advertising campaign they think is not honest because it confuses consumers.
In a letter they say, "The most disappointing and defamatory piece of this ad is the suggestion that HFCS is not 'honest.' This is an incredible offense to every U.S. corn farmer who works hard to provide safe, nutritious food for the world."
The corn growers hope to talk this out, CEO Craig Floss says, "We've had a very good working relationship with Hy-Vee in the past and I feel like perhaps Hy-Vee has jumped on a consumer marketing campaign bandwagon without really understanding all the science behind what high fructose corn syrup really is."
In a press release, Hy-Vee responded to the Iowa Corn Growers Association letter, “To clarify, we have not eliminated high fructose corn syrup from any Hy-Vee brand products. The Clean Honest Ingredients label was placed on products that never contained high fructose corn syrup to begin with. Our press release states that in the future we may eliminate artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals from products, but high fructose corn syrup does not fall into either category."
They further claim the distribution of the letter was part of a smear campaign, "What is most disappointing to us is how the Iowa Corn Growers Association chose to voice their concern. Had they elected to pick up the phone and call us directly versus attacking our business character through the media, we could have immediately clarified that our initiative in no way attacks their product."