Natural Foods Merchandiser

Earth Fare Bans Controversial Sweetener

Earth Fare, a chain of nine natural products supermarkets based in Asheville, N.C., announced July 28 that it would ban all products made with high fructose corn syrup.

?Over a third of our sodas and energy bars will have to be removed, some of them best sellers,? said Earth Fare Director of Purchasing David Bowles.

?We were the first chain to ban hydrogenated oils from our shelves, and now we set the standard again, putting customer health before profit,? added Earth Fare Chief Executive Officer and President Michael Cianciarulo.

High fructose corn syrup has been implicated in an array of health woes, from childhood obesity to diabetes and heart disease. Use of HFCS in soft drinks increased 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, according to a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which also reported a link between refined carbohydrates, such as HFCS, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy have disputed the findings, saying there is no evidence that HFCS itself is responsible.

?It?s sort of a battle of the scientists,? said Mary Mulry, senior director of product development and standards at Wild Oats, based in Boulder, Colo.

Wild Oats, the 105-store supernatural chain known for its strict ingredients policy, has not yet implemented an all-out ban on HFCS but is not accepting any new products with the controversial ingredient. ?It?s becoming an issue for us as well,? said Mulry. ?We look at it as the next hydrogenated oil.?

The sweetener, which is added to everything from snack bars to sodas, is popular among manufacturers, at a cost of 11 cents per pound. ?Companies are using it because it?s inexpensive, more than any other reason,? Mulry said.

All of the chain?s private-label products are HFCS-free, according to Mulry. ?We?re working on getting manufacturers to switch? to a different sweetener, she said, notably Blue Sky and Hansen?s sodas. The chain is likely to remove Newman?s Own pasta sauce and lemonade in the near future, she said. ?It is really a conventional brand,? she said. ?They?re not interested in changing.?

Earth Fare plans to have all products containing HFCS removed from store shelves by year?s end.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 9/p. 9

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