The outspoken talking heads at MSNBC and Fox News shouted their opinions, while state legislators proposed certifying teachers to carry firearms and Federal lawmakers grappled with each other about background checks, assault rifles, and magazine clips.
The school safety debate prompted by the heartbreak in Newton goes on, albeit more quietly than months earlier. With power players and lobbyists working to solve this issue under a polarity of political ideologies, a stalemate is inevitable and the school safety debate will stagnate until the next bloodbath.
In the meantime, the public figures that talk relentlessly about school security and child safety should focus their attention and influence on eradicating the most persistent, pervasive schoolhouse enemy: high fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made by chemically altering the molecular structure of milled cornstarch with the introduction of different enzymes. Proponents for the use of HFCS often cite the substance as a healthy, cost effective alternative to refined cane sugar and acknowledge the prevalence of HFCS in the diet of American schoolchildren. According to the Corn Refiners Association, “High fructose corn syrup plays an important role in school nutrition—it not only makes healthy foods affordable, but it also makes some nutritious items more palatable – like chocolate milk.” Setting aside the CRA’s argument regarding the economic value of HFCS, the association’s assertion that the sugar substitute is “healthy” and “nutrition” is dubious at best. Consider the CRA’s own example: chocolate milk. The typical, eight-ounce serving of low fat chocolate milk that is widely available in school cafeterias across the country contains 150 calories and 26 grams of sugar – in the form of high fructose corn syrup. After being “thoroughly disgusted” by reading the nutritional labels of items offered in the cafeteria of her children’s school, health and parenting blogger, Caroline Calcote refuses to buy school lunches for her sons. Discussing chocolate milk, Calcote notes, “milk is the first ingredient. However, with 26 grams of sugar, the HFCS is obviously not far behind. What really gets me is the front of the milk carton: “Healthier food keeps you mooooovin’!” Well, so does a wallop of sugar, at least until the coma sets in a half hour later.”
The American Heart Association recommends that children between four and eighteen limit their added sugar intake to four to eight teaspoons (20g-40g) a day. With nearly a child’s entire recommended intake of added sugar coming from one, eight-ounce serving of chocolate milk, it is nauseating to calculate the total amount of sugar ingested by American children everyday. Considering that HFCS is latent in seemingly harmless foodstuffs like sports drinks, canned fruit, and ketchup, it is difficult to comprehend how the Corn Refiners Association can stand by its claims that HFCS is healthy and nutritious. In reality, the unregulated ingestion of HFCS by children is dangerous and leads to lifetime of medical problems and decreased quality of existence.
It is common knowledge that the overconsumption of fat and sugar is a contributing factor to the onset of type two diabetes and obesity. However, with high fructose corn syrup added to foods that cast an illusion of wholesomeness, even a child that avoids French fries, candy, and cupcakes is at risk. According to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eighteen percent of children between the ages of six and nineteen are medically categorized as having…