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Feb 18, 2008 08:49 PM

Is 'Corn' and its by products dominating North American diets?

Ive been told by someone I respect that Corn and it's by-products are the primary element in the the North American diet. I have just looked through my kitchen and pantry in search of corn products and here they are;
1)Corn oil,
2)Corn chips,
3)Corn starch
4)Corn Syrup
5)Corn Flakes
6)Orville Rickenbakker (Pop Corn kernels)
7)Corn niblets
8)Corned beef, can of ??
9)Corn flour
10)corn meal

Actually, I'm quite surprised at the number of items I've come across that are manufactured from Corn.
What else can you find among your kitchen supplies?

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  1. Corned beef doesn't actually have corn in it.

    Some white vinegar is made from corn.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Humbucker

      Most, if not all, white distilled vinegar in the US is made from corn.

      And well traditionally corned beef doesn't have corn in it- the name comes from the type salt originally used- much of the commercially prepared corn beefs do have corn derivatives in them today.

      1. re: Humbucker

        Actually, it does. Most cows are fed a corn based diet, so the beef is basically reconstituted corn.

      2. Don't forget all the seemingly non-corn products, which use corn as an intermediate product, such as fruit juices and soda (using HFCS).

        15 Replies
        1. re: moki

          I heard Michael Pollan this morning on the radio. He's the guy who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. He says that corn is in everything now. Also in almost everything now (food) is cotton. It seems totally weird to me that we're eating cotton and corn in many, many different guises. They're cheap due to government subsidies, and their use in food is growing bigger everyday. His book's amazing and he's a good interview. I think you can hear him in an archive of Democracy Now on KPFA on the web. It was this morning's show. Pollan teaches at UC Berkeley. He's written a second book, but I can't remember the name.

          1. re: oakjoan

            On that note, I was looking at the recent US. gov. figures, the average American now consumes more HFCS than sugar in a year (28.4 kg vs 26.7 kg) (USDA). Plus, with government import tariffs on sugar continuing, we probably haven't seen the last of HFCS and corn products.

            1. re: moki

              Just continue showing America our interests by our wallets. I go through great lengths to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Very true about the subsidies. People just don't know or care much about the food bill in America.

              1. re: moki

                It's late for me so I misread and thought you wrote "the average American cow", although it did make sense for a moment.

                Not surprising about the rise. I'm personally trying to boycott HFCS-containing products in my purchases.

              2. re: oakjoan

                I was given The Omnivore's Dilemma and In The Defense of Food recently. Very eye opening. Just to give an idea...was in the grocery store. Picked up a pack of Bologne to read the label. I had always known that it was made of "the parts you don't want to know about" as my Mom would say. Imagine my surprise when I saw corn syrup listed. Corn syrup in bologne???

                1. re: rHairing

                  I've seen it in packages of whole wheat bread. :(

                  1. re: Prav

                    And crackers, frozen pizza and so on. My take is, the food product manufacturers are trying to bulk up their products using the least costly materials, while still maintaining the products' desired profile of taste, texture, colour etc. they had in mind. So, gram for gram, the more HFCS, fructose-glucose, corn syrup and other cheap stuff they can sneak in, the higher their profit margins.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    The first chapter of Ominvore's Dilemma is devoted to corn in our diet. Definitely worth reading.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      In TOD, Pollan basically says that North Americans are mostly made of corn. We get our carbon atoms from the food we eat and the isotope that is corn is predominantly what makes us up. So that means that even if it isn't corn, it's corn.


                    2. re: moki

                      fruit juice doesn't use corn syrup.

                      1. re: xanadude

                        Hight fructose corn syrup is a HIGHLY common ingredient in fruit juices. Check the labels.

                        1. re: spellweaver16

                          I suppose it depends on the country, but in the US (below quoted from wikipedia:fruit juice but known from other sources)

                          "In the USA, fruit juice can only legally be used to describe a product which is 100% fruit juice. A blend of fruit juice(s) with other ingredients, such as high-fructose corn syrup, is called a juice cocktail or juice drink[4] According to the FDA, the term "nectar" is generally accepted in the U.S. and in international trade for a diluted juice to denote a beverage that contains fruit juice or puree, water, and which may contain sweeteners.[5]"

                          1. re: xanadude

                            My bad, you're right, the technical term for what I was referring to is a juice drink or cocktail, I was in a hurry and didn't think it out. On the other hand, it's probably also a bad sign that we now commonly refer to juice cocktails or drinks as fruit juice.

                            1. re: moki

                              Exactly. Earlier today I sat in for an educational seminar for caretakers, on nutrition, and one of the important points was to be able to distinguish the difference between fruit juices and fruit drinks/beverages/cocktails/punches etc.

                              The common trick is to splash the packaging with enticing graphics of real fruit, catchy text that says "made with real fruit", "rich in vitamin C" and so on. Of course the magic words (beverage, punch etc.) are made the least prominent in the packaging.

                    3. If you read "Omnivore's Dilemma," the author goes into great detail regarding corn as the main crop of the Americas. It's fascinating to think about because most people think of either wheat or rice as the main, fundamental plant that sustains us.

                      1. It is definitely getting harder to find items that don't contain HFCS. That stuff is just terrible for you!

                        6 Replies
                            1. re: creamy

                              Couldn't agree more, creamy! I'm diabetic, and I have to avoid this stuff like the plague. I'm the cranky, aging geek you see in the aisles carefully scrutinizing food labels - and I'm so glad that governments have stepped up labeling requirements. You can't have too much information about the food you eat!

                            2. re: smarsh

                              I don't think HFCS in itself is really that much worse for you than regular old sugar. At least there's been no conclusive research that indicates this is true. The main issue is that it's used in EVERYTHING and turns up in a lot of places you wouldn't even normally expect for there to be sugar, so you end up consuming a lot more of it than you ought to if you don't pay attention. This hidden sugar, in everything from saltines to peanut butter, is what makes people fat and can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other nasty illnesses.

                              There's also nothing wrong with eating corn, but if your diet consists of 90% corn and corn by-products, your body is overdosing on some nutrients and lacking in others.

                              I also personally think HFCS tastes overly sweet and artificial, which is reason enough for me to avoid it.

                              1. re: oolah

                                oolah, that is the point I was trying to make. I've certainly read all the anecdotal evidence like the Phil Lempert article above. I've yet to see any hard fast scientific evidence that proves that HFCS is the devil. My hope is always that when people make broad statements like "that stuff is terrible for you" that they have scientific data to back it up.

                                I do however agree with you that HFCS being in everything makes us vulnerable to sugars we wouldn't normally, purposefully, consume.

                                1. re: smarsh

                                  I agree there is no scientific data, but then that's what I find frustrating about USDA / North American standards, that any food additive is presumed innocent unless "proved" otherwise, just like all the hormones and pesticides that are used on a routine basis on all our foodstuff.

                                  Sorry I'm ranting too much in this thread already..

                          1. Some interesting reads:



                            From 1977 to 1997... HFCS consumption increased from 9.6lb to 62.4lbs per capita!