'Corn Sugar' Debate Still Going Strong

The Sugar Association files motion to dismiss against Corn Refiners' counterclaim of initial 'corn sugar' suit; Series of court battles doesn't appear to be ending soon

Published on: Oct 31, 2012

Following an ongoing legal battle regarding the Corn Refiners Association's rebranding of high fructose corn syrup to "corn sugar," The Sugar Association on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss a CRA counterclaim against the group's initial April 2011 lawsuit alleging consumer deception.

In that original lawsuit, The Sugar Association maintains that HFCS is not the same as sugar derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, and says a CRA advertising campaign telling consumers that processed sugar and HFCS were the same was "deceptive."

The April suit has since spawned a Sept. 4 counterclaim from four CRA member companies and now an Oct. 30 motion to dismiss that counterclaim from The Sugar Association.

The Sugar Association files motion to dismiss against Corn Refiners counterclaim of initial corn sugar suit
The Sugar Association files motion to dismiss against Corn Refiners' counterclaim of initial 'corn sugar' suit

The CRA counterclaim says that The Sugar Association is “deceiving consumers into believing that processed sugar is safer and more healthful than high fructose corn syrup," while the motion to dismiss says that the CRA claim represents a "campaign to silence all negative commentary about HFCS from the public debate."

"The Sugar Association has been targeted by ADM, Cargill and the other corn processors for exercising a cherished right – free speech," co-lead attorney Adam Fox said of the Sugar Association's decision to file a motion to dismiss.

"As our motion notes, The Sugar Association did not commission any paid advertising. It hired no actors, directors or cameramen. It purchased no television commercials or spreads in newspapers or magazines … it is outrageous that these companies are seeking to stifle a legitimate public discussion about HFCS, particularly because they previously said that stopping their own multimillion dollar commercial advertising would be a form of censorship," Fox added.

The Food and Drug Administration has also weighed in on the issue, rejecting a CRA petition in May that requested a product name change from HFCS to "corn sugar."

The FDA explained that "the use of the term 'sugar' to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties."