Sugar Farmers Sue Corn Processors on Sugar Claims

Campaign has sugar refiners up in arms.

Published on: Apr 29, 2011

American sugar farmers and refiners have filed a suit to stop corn processors from marketing high-fructose corn syrup as a "natural" product equivalent to real sugar.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C & H Sugar Company, Inc., charges that the "corn sugar" branding campaign financed by the corn refining industry constitutes false advertising under federal and state law.

Companies named as defendants include Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill, Inc., Corn Products International, Inc., Penford Products Co., Roquette America, Inc., Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc. and the companies' marketing and lobbying organization, The Corn Refiners Association, Inc. The sugar producers seek an injunction to end the advertising campaign and also seek damages, including compensation for corrective advertising.

The corn refining industry has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to substitute "corn sugar" for "high-fructose corn syrup" on ingredient labels.

"This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple," said Inder Mathur, President and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative, which represents about 1,000 American sugar beet farmers. "If consumers are concerned about your product, then you should improve it or explain its benefits."

"Sugar is sugar," fired back Audrae Erickson, CRA president. "High-fructose corn syrup and sugar are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent. Experts have supported this claim, including the American Dietetic Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The name corn sugar more accurately describes this sweetener and helps clarify food products labeling for manufacturers and consumers alike. This lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our right to petition the FDA to clear up consumer confusion about the name."

Erickson went on to say that many manufacturers depend on high fructose corn syrup as a versatile ingredient that adds taste, texture, freshness, and sweetness to food and beverages. She says it is disappointing that another sweetener would sue the competition for its own gain.