Major league sugar players join ‘corn sugar’ lawsuit

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fructose corn syrup High fructose corn High-fructose corn syrup

Five companies and two trade organizations have joined a lawsuit against members of the corn refining industry in an attempt to stop them from claiming that high fructose corn syrup is a natural corn sugar.

The suit, filed in a US district court in Los Angeles last month, now includes the Sugar Association and the American Sugar Cane League, American Sugar Refining, Amalgamated Sugar Company, Imperial Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and the United States Sugar Corporation. Original plaintiffs were Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C&H Sugar Company, Inc.

Responding to a request for comment, director of communications for the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) David Knowles referred FoodNavigator-USA to the organization’s earlier press statement​, saying that the CRA would not make any further public comment.

John Sheptor, president and CEO of Imperial Sugar, which has now joined the lawsuit, said: “The attempted name change is an intentional effort to deceive consumers and, most disingenuously, it's being done under the guise of consumer clarity. We are taking a stand to challenge this marketing ploy for what it is."

The plaintiffs claim the corn refining industry’s corn sugar branding campaign​ for high fructose corn syrup constitutes false advertising and are seeking an injunction to end the campaign as well as damages, including “compensation for corrective advertising”​.

In a statement issued late last month when sugar industry members originally filed the lawsuit, CRA president Audrae Erickson said: “It is disappointing that another sweetener would sue the competition for its own gain – and stand in the way of consumer clarity about added sugars in the diet.

“Simply, this lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our right to petition the FDA to clear up consumer confusion about the name.”

The CRA petitioned the Food and Drug Administration in September asking it to allow the term ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative label declaration for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The trade association, which represents the interests of the corn refining industry 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.

Apart from the CRA, companies named as defendants in the case are ADM, Cargill, Corn Products International, Penford Products, Roquette America, and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas.

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