The Canadian Sugar Institute may be regretting their decision to come to Northern Secondary School in Toronto to make their presentation about the virtues of sugar. They likely had no clue they’d come up against someone like 14-year-old food blogger, Ryan Storm.
Storm is a passionate organic foodie who writes a blog which reviews restaurants, chefs and grocery stores in Toronto where people can buy whole food. Needless to say, he was pretty shocked when the Canadian Sugar Institute (CSI) showed up at his school recently for a presentation about sugar’s benefits as part of a health program.
CSI makes some rather questionable statements on its website that would cause any informed, healthy eater to be skeptical. For one, it asserts that sugar does not make kids hyperactive, blaming “exciting activities” instead. CSI states:
“Researchers have suggested that occasional bouts of excess energy among healthy children may be linked to the excitement associated with special activities like parties, holiday celebrations and recess, not the sweets or other foods served at these events.”
Exactly which researchers, CSI doesn’t say.
The presentation was a part of the school’s “Healthy Hub” program, designed to teach kids about nutrition, cooking and ingredients. As someone extremely knowledgeable about nutrition, and this substance in general, Storm was highly skeptical of the presentation’s message that “sugar can be part of a healthy diet.”
The pro-sugar activities students were asked to take part in “included a jeopardy game focused on types of sugars, where sugar comes from, and myths and facts regarding sugars; pictures of foods representing each of the functions that sugars can perform in foods (e.g. food safety/preservation, texture, browning); and a nutrition labeling exercise.”
Obviously well-informed, Storm, who often questions food processing and additives on his blog, which he says he launched when he was 8, couldn’t help but voice his opinion. He told the Toronto Star:
“I don’t know why they need to come to a school; I asked them if they’d seen ‘Fed Up,’ the documentary that talks about how addictive added sugar can be, but they said there were multiple studies that show that sugar is not addictive at all,” in response, Storm then says he asked them, “Who funded those studies?”
Finally, he asked, “So considering how many people think sugar is such a bad thing, how can you guys go around saying sugar is healthy?”
Not surprisingly, the CSI representatives were said to quickly become defensive and uncomfortable with Storm’s inquiries, refusing his request to film or record them, saying it would be an invasion of privacy. Eventually, they told him to stop asking questions.
Ryan Storm’s family has gone organic since a younger sibling was diagnosed with severe allergies, and there is no regular sugar in his home. He said they use alternative sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey. They also shop at weekly markets and have fresh vegetables delivered each week from a farm.
The school board has since apologized for inviting the CSI to the school, and principal Ron Felsen told the Star: “It’s a great initiative, but all speakers should be vetted. I’m glad we have students that will question things.”
Apparently there was little if any vetting that occurred – even the name of the organization, Canadian Sugar Institute, should have provided a clue. The school also sent out emails to parents ahead of the event, stating that they would have guest presenters from the CSI and that the school would sell banana bread in an effort to promote “healthy, sugary treats.”
Fortunately, there are kids like Ryan in the world that are willing to go up against organizations that clearly don’t have the public’s best interests at heart.
-The Alternative Daily