Sugar Producers Take High Fructose Corn Syrup to Court

September 19, 2011

Prosecutors allege that HFCS producers have spent over $50 million misleading the public on the nature of high fructose corn syrup.

Producers of high fructose corn syrup are increasingly marketing the ingredient as “corn sugar,” based on continuing science and media bites linking the sweetener to diabetes and obesity. But the rebranding initiative for high fructose corn syrup may have hit a brick wall, as sugar farmer cooperatives and other sugar producers, including C&H Sugar Company (Crockett, CA), have filed a lawsuit against groups pushing the new labeling.

Defendants in the case, which began at a Los Angeles courtroom on September 13, include Archer Daniels Midland Co. (Decatur, IL), Cargill (Minneapolis), and the Corn Refiners Association (Washington, DC).

The defendants have spent over $50 million rebranding high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar,” which has “misled, frustrated, and confused consumers,” according to The Sugar Association (Washington, DC). The Association further contends that the high fructose corn syrup industry has historically defended its ingredient as chemically-derived, rather than natural:

 

The defendants’ current claims that theirs is a “natural” product equivalent to real sugar are demonstrably false. In 1997, as part of an effort to expand the production and consumption of HFCS in Mexico, the defendants themselves submitted affidavits attesting to the exactly opposite conclusion in order to support their claim that HFCS would not conflict with the Mexican sugar production. In these documents, the defendants admitted that, far from being natural, HFCS is an industrially manufactured chemical made by two molecular level transformations requiring advanced technology. In a supporting affidavit, the defendants told the Mexican government that “HFCS is a unique food ingredient which is the result of extensive scientific research and development."