When you hear the word "sugar," what comes to mind?
* Is it agave nectar?
* High fructose corn syrup?
* Or is it sugar?
As a representative of the Sugar Association, a coalition of America's sugarcane and sugar beet growers, it is my job to educate consumers about the scientific principles upon which our food and nutrition policies are built — especially those involving sugar. I'm always happy to answer questions on a particular study or article that's been published.
See also: Tax attack — Is it time for a sugar tax?
However, lately I find that I'm contacted more frequently about issues that don't involve sugar much at all.
The latest media frenzy came when New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg proposed a ban on soft drinks larger than 16 ounces to be sold as "single serve" beverages in places like convenient stores and fast food restaurants.
Calls from reporters, bloggers and radio producers, asking what the sugar industry thought, ensued. And the answer was always the same: Most caloric, sweetened beverages (like soda and fruit juice) are not sweetened with sugar in the United States. About 90 percent of these beverages are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. And no, HFCS is not sugar.
Think about that for a second. About 90 percent of all caloric, sweetened beverages sold in the United States contain only HFCS, not sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In the past three years, only 4 percent of the U.S. sugar supply was used by the beverage industry.
If you think I'm splitting hairs over terminology, let me explain why.