Cut the Corny Crap

I’ve recently seen this ad on TV and YouTube:

The ad was made by Americans Against Food Taxes, an interest group that includes some big agro-businesses and industrial fast food producers who are opposed to a proposed tax on soft drinks and juice drinks, in other words, beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Pardon the pun, but this ad, like HFCS found in soft drinks and juice drinks, is pretty corny stuff.  Let’s cut through the saccharine images of an All-American family and the folksy populist spin.  First, “juice drinks,” as defined by the USDA is different from “100% juice.”  Juice drinks only constitute a small percentage of actual fruit juice, and can contain added water, sugar/HFCS, coloring, and vitamins.  In these USDA health guidelines (PDF), the example juice drink only contains 5% juice.  The proposed tax is on soda and juice drinks, NOT on 100% juice or fresh fruit.  Last time I checked, soda and juice drinks were not essential foundations in the food pyramid.

I’m no fan of big agro-business lobbies or a Federal nanny state, but guaranteeing all Americans basic access to health care is an important issue that needs funding.  So where do we go from here? Well, if we follow the money (and the trail of corn kernels), we find that soft drinks and juice drinks are able to be sold relatively cheaply because of existing government intervention in the form of subsidies.  These government subsides—our taxpayer money— artificially lower the price of corn and corn derivatives like high fructose corn syrup.  When we buy a soda, we aren’t paying the REAL market price because the cost of producing corn syrup, a major ingredient, is subsidized by our tax dollars.  Hey, isn’t that soda socialism or something?

Now here’s the part where I might even get mistaken for a conservative:  Instead of levying taxes on soda and juice drinks to fund health care, why not just cut costs by reducing or even eliminating the corn subsidies, and use the savings to fund health care reform?  These subsidies are taxes that we have already paid that are a standing government bailout that props up an essentially non-market-based business model.

Insert folksy Fox News-worthy soundbite:  “Calm down about socialized medicine ’cause corn subsidies ain’t so capitalist either!

The Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database shows that there were $21.6 billion in corn subsidies in the four-year period from 2003-2006 (inclusive).  The Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University found that HFCS producers received an implicit $234 million dollar a year subsidy derived from overall corn subsidies.  Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that “adding a tax of three cents per 12-ounce serving to these types of sweetened drinks would generate $24 billion over the next four years.”  If the amount of money spent on four years of corn subsidies were redirected towards health care, we would already be 90% of the way to the potential $24 billion that could be raised by new taxes on soda and juice drinks.

Why bother with new taxes on struggling American families when the government can just stop using our taxpayer money to subsidize artificially-cheap corn, the staple of the industrial agro-businesses, and use it as a down payment on health care reform?

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Foossa Facts

  • Cut the Corny Crap cross-posted on Latewire:

  • Not here to argue, just to correct some mis-information in your post, and to offer some additional info.

    Any juice that is not 100% juice has to legally be called a “juice drink” or a “juice beverage” or something other than “juice.”

    It has nothing to do with what you add, such as sugar or HFCS or splenda.

    I make “juice beverages” for young children. HOWEVER, I am concerned about being lumped in with folks like those you mention, who add all kinds of “supplemental” sweeteners to juice.

    I DO NOT!

    First Juice flavors are 43-49% juice, and designed to NOT TASTE SWEET, and we are the ONLY ones we know of IN THE WORLD doing this. Our juices are certified organic, certified kosher and are the best you can buy off the shelf and hand your child. By not tasting sweet, First Juice can help steer developing tastebuds AWAY from craving sweet tastes and sugar.

    There is a global childhood obesity epidemic, Type 2 diabetes will effect 1 in 3 children born after 2000 (ADA data) and some of us are trying to do something about it! Please do not lump my brand in with everyone else!!

    Please correct the generalization that all juice drinks are junk. Most are, just not all.

    Parents need to learn how to read the SUGAR content on a nutrition facts panel— and to know this WOW factoid: a cube of sugar = 3.6 grams of sugar. This is the same amount of sugar that is in a packet for your coffee or a teaspoon in your kitchen.

    An 8 oz serving of 100% Apple Juice has 27g sugar, or 7.5 cubes. Who (if you knew this) would hand box after box of this to their kid? Would you put that in your coffee?

    I wrote Gov Patterson in NY to please be sure to exclude those of us trying to help parents cultivate healthy food taste preference development by steering kids away from sugar and to not inadvertently “throw me under the bus” while he was taxing soda just because my juice is not 100% juice. 100% juice has too much naturally occurring sugar for children who’s palates are developing the taste preferences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Yes, there is science behind that fact.

    I am happy to send you samples to taste. Our juices TASTE GREAT, and are less than 1/2 the sugar of sweet tasting alternatives.

    To a large extent it’s what you get used to. Some adults find our juice blends lacking enough taste– because they’ve been drinking too much sugar their whole lives…

    Let’s stop the madness!


  • Thanks for the clarification David. Sounds like your company is doing some good work to introduce healthier options for parents to give to their kids. I was specifically targeting soda and juice drinks containing HFCS and propose that the absurd loop that is the subsidy/tax structure around corn be closed. If a soda/juice drink tax is to be passed, it should only be on drinks with added sugar or HFCS.

  • I’ll drink (first juice) to that.

    And if you or any of your readers want to sample First Juice, email me!

    Tasting what can be, without sll the sugar & sweetness, is a liberating and healthy experience.