Friday, September 17, 2010

Only natural

I recently saw a new soda called "Sierra Mist Natural" for sale. Apparently, the only thing that differentiates this beverage from regular Sierra Mist is its use of real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. I'm a marketing professional, so I know all about choosing the version of the truth that is most flattering to you, but I fail to see how this makes the drink more "natural."

Most "real sugar" in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, which require processing to extract the sugar, just as corn does to yield corn syrup. And like the production of high fructose corn syrup, this processing induces reactions that partially change the chemical composition of the sugar. (Sugar from sugar cane is also treated with various chemicals during the refining process and may undergo some molecular change depending on the amount of refinement.)

So are beets inherently more "natural" than corn? (No wonder corn growers are so desperate to change their product's image.)

The truth is that most food products we buy are heavily processed in some way or another. Apple juice doesn't just rain down from heaven to be caught in the leaves of plastic bottle bushes. The apples must be picked and pressed and the juice strained and bottled. While I'm all for trying to minimize the amount of unnecessary refining that's done to our food, some processing is necessary. If we all became organic locovores today, most of us would starve to death tomorrow because of lower crop yields and quicker spoilage.

But back to Sierra Mist. Even more unbelievable than the claim that corn is artificial is the claim by Diet Sierra Mist that it contains "100% natural flavors," despite the fact that it contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Several other aspartame-sweetened diet drinks make this same baffling claim.

Is "sweet" not considered a flavor now? Or are they really trying to tell us that aspartame is somehow more natural than corn?

I beg to differ. In fact, here is a list of ten things more "natural" than aspartame, and  at least as natural as any other ingredient in Sierra Mist. (Yes, all of these are legitimately naturally occurring.)
  1. Arsenic
  2. Asbestos
  3. Botulinum toxin (a.k.a. Botox®)
  4. Crude oil
  5. Estrogen
  6. H1-N1
  7. Hemlock
  8. Opium
  9. Plutonium
  10. And, of course, bull shit
Well, to be fair, that last one may not be in the Sierra Mist bottle (I hope!), but it sure can be found in Sierra Mist's advertising...


  1. it is an outrage that Pepsi can just shut down a nice soda,and rip it off the shelves in favor of some supposed "natural"terrible tasting one. I have even started my own protest site as the original Sierra Mist was the only soda i drank since it was introduced,,now have me bring back our drink!

  2. keep in mind you speak rightly of the DIET [die -t] and it is bad but the NATURAL no caffine and jus God Given Sugar is a Refreshing change
    the only closest is the new JUST JUICE at walmarts with just Cranberry Just Cherry and my FAV Jus Blueberry....and Jones Cola....sooo enjoy non Diets and you love those