Corn-Syrup Makers Misleading Consumers, Sugar Refiners Say

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and other high-fructose corn syrup producers are misleading consumers about the true nature of their product, a coalition of sugar processors and refiners claimed in a revised lawsuit.

The corn-syrup producers are falsely marketing their product as “corn sugar” in an advertising campaign to make it more palatable to consumers, according to a Nov. 18 filing in federal court in Los Angeles.

“The only sweetener that may be labeled simply as ‘sugar’ is the natural sucrose found in cane sugar and sugar beet plants,” according to the complaint. “Defendants’ representations equating HFCS with real sugar -- such as ‘sugar is sugar,’ ‘your body can’t tell the difference,’ and ‘nutritionally the same as table sugar’ -- mislead the consuming public.”

United States Sugar Corp., Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Co. and seven other plaintiffs are suing ADM and Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. They seek a court order halting the ads, plus unspecified money damages.

Corn Products International Inc., based in Westchester, Illinois, is among four other defendants in the suit, which accuses the high-fructose corn syrup producers of trying to rebrand their product after contributing to an increase in obesity in the U.S.

Jessie McKinney, a spokeswoman for Decatur, Illinois-based Archer-Daniels Midland, said she couldn’t immediately comment on the allegations. Lori Fligge, a spokeswoman for Cargill, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Aaron Hoffman, a spokesman for Corn Products International, referred questions to the Corn Refiners Association.

‘Misleading’ Views

The Washington-based industry group, which counts Cargill, ADM and Corn Products International as members, said today the sugar companies are attempting to stifle public debate and that their lawsuit should be dismissed.

“The sugar industry is wrongfully alleging that high fructose corn syrup (a sugar made from corn) causes health issues that do not arise from consuming cane and beet sugar,” CRA President Audrae Erickson said in a statement. “We believe that the sugar industry’s views are misleading American consumers.”

The case is Western Sugar Cooperative v. Archer-Daniels Midland Co., 11-cv-3474, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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