S ecretary of Agriculture under President Richard Nixon, Butz was a key figure in the lowering of food prices in America, potentially leading to an increase in obesity in Americans. Butz was faced with two problems: (1) falling revenues for farmers and (2) consumers who wanted to lower American food prices which had been rising with inflation. Butz responded by ending restrictions on trade and growing, which led to a domestic corn surplus causing production of a cheaper form of sugar, high-fructose sugar. High-fructose syrup is a liquid sugar produced from cornstarch and is much sweeter than cane sugar. These characteristics matched with manufacturers' needs since they could begin producing less expensive, highly sweetened foods, which could be stored for longer periods as the addition of high-fructose sugar could prevent freezer burn of frozen foods and increase the shelf life of certain foods.
Such foods began to dominate both the soft-drink as well as the fast-food markets. As one critic noted: "The legacy of Earl Butz was that Coca-Cola and Pepsi switched from a 50/50 mix of corn sugar and cane sugar to 100 percent high-fructose corn syrup, enabling them to save 20 per cent costs, boost portion sizes and still make profits" (Critser 2003: 18). In the supermarket, high-calorie foods became even cheaper. "In short, Butz had delivered everything the modern American consumer had wanted. Cheap, abundant and tasty calories had arrived. It was time to eat" (Critser 2003: 19). In addition, Butz arranged with countries such as Malaysia to import palm oil into the U.S.A., also known as "hog's lard" or "tree lard." This heavily saturated, high-calorie oil became a staple of the fast-food industry. The move to cheaper raw materials led consumers to eat cheaper but calorie-dense foods lacking in vitamins and minerals. Recently, some have argued that it was this change in food composition that led to the increase in obesity in the U.S.A. (Critser 2003; Havel 2005; Jurgens et al. 2005).
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