Corn and sugar lobbies bury the hatchet, settle 'corn sugar' lawsuit

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istockphoto JL Gutierrez
Picture: Istockphoto JL Gutierrez

Related tags Fructose corn syrup High fructose corn High-fructose corn syrup Sucrose Sugar association

After almost five years of bitter legal wrangling, the corn and sugar lobbies have buried the hatchet and settled their legal dispute – mid-trial – over the marketing of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

In a joint statement issued Friday (Nov 20), the two parties said they had reached a settlement, the details of which are confidential.

The Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) said: “The parties continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.”

Five year dispute

The dispute began when the CRA petitioned the FDA to recognize ‘com sugar’ as an alternate term for HFCS.

In the petition (which was later denied​), the CRA argued that the term ‘corn sugar’ would provide greater clarity for consumers, many of whom were laboring under the misapprehension that HFCS is significantly higher in calories, fructose, and sweetness than table sugar (sucrose). It then followed up with a high-profile media campaign promoting ‘corn sugar’.

Sugar refiners and farmers responded in April 2011 with a false advertising lawsuit against leading corn refiners, arguing that the 'corn sugar' moniker was deceptive and misleading, while the corn refiners in turn countersued, arguing that sugar companies had launched a “systematic campaign​” to vilify HFCS.

A jury trial began on November 4, 2015, in Los Angeles.

HFCS contains the same number of calories as sucrose (table sugar), and almost the same ratio of its two principal ingredients: fructose and glucose. HFCS 55, which is used in soft drinks, contains 55% fructose with the balance made up mostly by glucose; while HFCS 42, which is used in foods, contains about 42% fructose with the balance mostly comprising glucose.  Table sugar (sucrose) contains 50:50 glucose and fructose.

The case is Western Sugar Cooperative et al. v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company et al. in the central district of California. Case No. CV-2:11-03473

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