US District Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled on Friday that the case brought against the corn refining industry by major players in the sugar industry should go forward, saying that in reference to claims that HFCS could be characterized as corn sugar and natural, the plaintiffs have “met their burden in showing a reasonable probability of success on their argument that the statements are false."
However, CRA president and CEO Audrae Erickson said that the sugar industry was “attempting to shut down free speech”, and repeated the association’s position that referring to HFCS as natural and corn sugar was not misleading.
“To the contrary, the educational campaign is science based and supported by a wide variety of medical and scientific experts,” she said.
Erickson also praised the court’s decision to grant a defense motion that dismisses all individual manufacturers of HFCS as defendants, leaving only the CRA. The judge has also dismissed part of the suit that claimed the CRA had violated California state law, as well as federal law.
Meanwhile, Adam Fox of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, who argued the sugar industry’s case before the court, welcomed the decision to take the case forward.
"We are gratified by Judge Marshall's ruling and we look forward to a final resolution of our case,” he said.
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.
The United States is still the world’s biggest user of high fructose corn syrup, but manufacturers have been increasingly switching it out of their products in recent years in preference for beet or cane sugar, on the back of a spate of bad publicity.