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- For years, the sugar and corn syrup industries have been battling it out in California federal district court over allegations of false advertising. The Western Sugar Cooperative initially filed suit in 2011, accusing the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), among others, of misleading the public with a marketing campaign promoting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as nutritionally identical to sugar and disputing CRA’s claim that “sugar is sugar”. CRA Member Companies Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, Ingredion (formerly known as Corn Products International), and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas countersued in 2012, claiming that the sugar industry was smearing HFCS to persuade consumers to buy products sweetened with sugar.
- The sugar industry wrapped up its case-in-chief yesterday. In support of its allegations that the HFCS industry knowingly made false claims that HFCS is equivalent to sugar, the sugar industry presented a 1998 trade brief filed by the CRA in Mexico that declares HFCS to be distinct from sugar. The sugar industry also presented testimony from Dr. David L. Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, who stated that he was particularly wary of HFCS since less is known about its health impacts and the sweetener was mostly found in highly processed foods.
- The court’s decision in this case will certainly have implications for both the HFCS and sugar industries with respect to who will ultimately capture the sweetener market, the driving force underlying the ongoing legal battle. From a regulatory standpoint, it remains to be seen whether a favorable outcome in this case for HFCS (i.e., that “sugar is sugar”) would have any impact on FDA’s 2012 decision that “corn sugar” may not be used as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS.