Sugar Industry and Corn Syrup Settle Court Battle

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Nov 23, 2015

The case involving scientific evidence and heated arguments from both the U.S. sugar industry and the corn refiners ended with a joint statement on November 20 mid-trial about which product is healthier. The major sugar companies and the corn refiners settled their litigation investigating the health claims of each industry, though the terms of the settlement were not disclosed in a joint statement.

"The parties had been trying to work on an agreement for a month before trial, and these things take time," reported W. Mark Lanier, an attorney for the sugar processors, in a Reuters article. A representative from the corn refiners declined to comment.

Several sugar refiners alleged in a 2011 lawsuit that a Corn Refiners Association advertising campaign describing high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar" and "natural" was false. The corn refiners counter sued, saying the Sugar Association falsely stated that corn syrup caused obesity and cancer. The corn refiners argued that sugar processors weren't damaged because they enjoyed record sales and profits during the ad campaign. The sugar growers sought $1.1 billion in compensatory damages over the campaign. The corn refiners asked for about $530 million in their counter suit.

The trial, which began earlier this month, had been expected to be decided by a jury in December. While the implications for the groups are unclear, the settlement means consumers won't receive an impartial verdict about which industry's health claims are more accurate.

The case began as sweetener demand was falling, the slowdown due mainly because of concerns about the high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Both industries "continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners," the parties said.

Average sweetener consumption by Americans overall was 131.1 lb in 2014, down from 153.2 lb in 1999. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that corn syrup, used to sweeten foods including soda, could not be called sugar.

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