NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sugar is being unfairly blamed for obesity problems in the United States at a time when per capita consumption of sweeteners has declined over the past decade, the head of an industry group complained on Wednesday.
Andrew Briscoe, the president and chief executive of the Sugar Association Inc., told Reuters linking sugar to obesity is misleading because most of the sweeteners used in the beverage industry are from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
“There has to be a scapegoat,” said Briscoe, adding elimination of physical education programs in schools shares part of the blame by keeping children inactive.
Briscoe said that according to data from the U.S. Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. per capital sugar consumption has fallen 40 percent since 1970.
“Sugar is not part of the problem,” he said.
The Sugar Association tracks U.S. sugar consumption and has been trying to fight off attempts to link the sweetener to surging obesity rates among children in the country.
U.S. public health experts have called for taxing sweetened soft drinks as a way to cut consumption of beverages.
The Sugar Association said in a statement that less than 5 percent of all U.S. sugar deliveries go to the beverage industry.
The consumption of HFCS in 2008 stood at more than 5.0 million metric tons in 2008, nearly 15 times more HFCS than sugar used in beverages, the Group said in citing USDA figures.
An official of the group said they are not blaming HFCS or corn syrup since the consumption of all sweeteners has declined over the preceding decade.
“Caloric sweeteners across the board (HFCS included) is down 9.7 percent over the last 10 years while the obesity rates have continued to rise,” the official said.
“The data simply doesn’t back up that caloric sweeteners are the cause for the obesity epidemic in this country,” the official concluded.
Reporting by Rene Pastor