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Sugar industry amends complaint against HFCS industry

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 22-Nov-2011
Last updated on 22-Nov-2011 at 16:03 GMT2011-11-22T16:03:16Z

Sugar growers have amended a lawsuit against the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), claiming that some members of the association have conspired to engage in false advertising – an accusation the CRA denies.

The amended complaint alleges that senior executives at Cargill, ADM, Corn Products International, Roquette America, and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas "organize[d] collectively in order to dominate and ... control" an advertising campaign that refers to high fructose corn syrup as ‘corn sugar’. In a Sugar Association statement, complainants claim that CRA members from these companies are behind a conspiracy to deceive the public.

However, the CRA has repeatedly said that it does not consider referring to HFCS as natural and corn sugar to be misleading. The association’s president and CEO Audrae Erickson also claims that the sugar industry’s lawsuit is an attempt to stifle free speech.

In October, the court granted a defense motion to dismiss all individual manufacturers of HFCS as defendants in the suit, leaving only the CRA.

Lead attorney for the sugar growers Adam Fox of Squire Sanders said: "Let's be clear about what is at stake here. This litigation is about false advertising funded by CRA's biggest members… This lawsuit seeks to put an end to the intentional deception.”

In response, Erickson said: "The simple truth is that the sugar industry is attempting to use the courts to stifle free speech but it lacks the facts to support its claims against our member companies. The court made that fact clear in its last ruling, and we continue to believe these claims against the companies should be dismissed.”

The CRA petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September last year asking it to allow the term ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative label declaration for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The trade association has repeatedly stressed that HFCS is not high in fructose, even though that is what the name may suggest. In fact it contains proportions of fructose and glucose that are similar to sucrose.

However, the FDA has yet to make a decision about the use of the term ‘corn sugar’, and the plaintiffs claim that the corn industry should have waited until the FDA responded to its petition to allow an alternative labeling claim before going ahead with its corn sugar campaign.

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