Sugar companies, associations join lawsuit against corn processors

June 8, 2011

Five more individual sugar companies and two trade associations have joined a lawsuit to stop the corn processors from marketing high-fructose corn syrup as a "natural" product equivalent to real sugar. The sugar companies and associations said that they joined the suit because they have witnessed increased confusion and frustration among consumers who are reacting to the high-fructose corn syrup industry's mass-media rebranding campaign.

The corn processing industry petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last fall for approval to substitute "corn sugar" for "high-fructose corn syrup" on ingredient labels. While the FDA ponders the ruling, the industry is running an ad campaign that includes TV spots featuring parents walking through cornfields declaring that whether corn sugar or cane sugar, "your body can't tell the difference."

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, charges that the "corn sugar" rebranding campaign financed by the corn processing industry companies constitutes false advertising under federal and state law. The suit argues that the processors' $50 million campaign was launched as a way to stem declining sales of high-fructose corn syrup. The suit asks for an injunction to end the advertising campaign and undetermined damages, including compensation for corrective advertising.

In addition to the Sugar Association and the American Sugar Cane League, American Sugar Refining, Amalgamated Sugar Co., Imperial Sugar Co., Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, and the United States Sugar Corp. joined the lawsuit. Original plaintiffs include Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Co., and C&H Sugar Co., Inc.

Companies named as defendants include Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Corn Products International, Penford Products, Roquette America, Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, and the companies' lobbying and promotional organization, The Corn Refiners Association.
Around the same time that the additional plaintiffs joined the suit, the Corn Refiners Association announced a study that shows that there is no evidence of any significant variation in the way the human body metabolizes HFCS as opposed to standard table sugar, or any difference in impact on risk factors for chronic disease.

"While there has been a lot of media attention lately focused on the claims that HFCS is somehow more likely to cause obesity and chronic disease than other sweeteners, the evidence simply does not support those claims. Recent research shows that individuals who consumed normal levels of fructose have seen no adverse effects on their weight or triglycerides," said study author James M. Rippe, Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida.

Lawsuit release

Corn Refiners Association release

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