The well known issue of sugar versus high fructose corn syrup is battled out in a lawsuit that could end up in billions paid from one side to another.
- In 2008, corn refiners advertised corn syrup as ‘corn sugar’ and deemed it as “nutritionally the same as sugar”
- In 2011, sugar refiners sued them for $1.1 billion for false advertising
- Corn refiners countersued for $530 million on the basis of false claims that corn syrup causes cancer and obesity
- The lawsuit is likely to last one month
It seems another fight has ensued and it’s about to take place in front of the court. The issue of sugar against high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been long debated. The problem now stands due to the continually declining demand for sweeteners overall. The population seems to be waning off the request for both, likely in lieu of high obesity rates and diabetes.
The basis of the lawsuit began in 2008, when corn refiners began advertising HFCS as “corn sugar”, claiming that it’s perfectly natural and that it had the nutritional value of actual sugar. This included companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), and Cargill Inc.
However, in 2011 several sugar refiners, such as ASR Group decided to sue them for wrongfully advertising their products. They claimed that their statements were false. According to an attorney for the Sugar Associations, corn refiners can’t just “make stuff up”. Mark Lanier, who represented sugar companies, stated that sugar is sugar is sugar, but corn syrup is not.
The sugar growers and refiners are seeking $1.1 billion compensatory damages by the end of the lawsuit. This will be beyond punitive damages, and fees.
Corn refiners, on the other hand, decided to countersue for $530 million, stating that the Sugar Association falsely claimed that HFCS leads to obesity and cancer in one of their newsletters. And so, the lawsuit began.
Both sweeteners are highly common in food items, such as candy, cakes, salad dressings or others. However, corn syrup is more frequently found in sodas.
It should be noted that in 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that corn syrup cannot be called “sugar”. They rejected the request made by corn refiners. However, the administration also noted that they were not aware of any differences between the safety of HFCS and sugar. In fact, they deemed it about the same as natural products, such as sucrose or honey.
Regardless, Sugar Association attorney Lanier claims that their advertising techniques were just plain wrong. While sugar has a 2,000 year-old history, corn syrup was “invented in a Japanese laboratory in 1955”. Thus, they cannot be held on equal ground.
Attorney for corn refiners, Dan Webb, has stated that both sugar and corn syrup have exactly the same effect on the body. He claimed that one is crystal, and one is liquid, but they’re both sugars. The attorney also stated that the Sugar Association was not harmed in profits by the statements of corn refiners, such as ADM.
The trial is expected to last around a month, which would settle the debate of wrongful advertising and accusation on either end.
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