A group of sugar farmers and refiners in late April filed a suit to stop the Corn Refiners Association from changing the name of high-fructose corn syrup to "corn sugar."
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Co. and C & H Sugar Co., charges the "corn sugar" branding campaign constitutes false advertising under federal and state laws. Companies named as defendants include Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill Inc., Corn Products International Inc., Penford Products Co., Roquette America Inc., Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas Inc. and their marketing organization, the CRA.
"If consumers are concerned about your product, then you should improve it or explain its benefits, not try to deceive people about its name or distort scientific facts," said Inder Mathur, president/CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative.
The sugar producers seek an injunction to end the advertising campaign and also seek damages, including compensation for corrective advertising.
According to the complaint, consumers are avoiding food and drinks containing HFCS because of its possible role in obesity and other nutritional and health problems, or simply to avoid non-natural ingredients. As a result, food & beverage makers have been replacing HFCS with real sugar, and the corn refining industry has seen HFCS sales steadily decline.
The CRA petitioned the FDA in September 2010 for approval to substitute "corn sugar" for "high-fructose corn syrup" on ingredient labels.
"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," she continued. "This lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our right to petition the FDA to clear up consumer confusion about the name."