* Corn industry fires back at sugar industry
* Accuses sugar industry of false advertising
* Legal tussle dates back to April 2011
* Corn syrup makers say profits are at stake
By Carey Gillam
Sept 5 A group of U.S. food companies that
includes conglomerate Cargill Inc has sued a sugar
industry trade group, claiming high fructose corn syrup is being
unfairly maligned by promoters of "natural" sugar.
The battle is one for consumer hearts, minds and stomachs.
Purveyors of corn syrup say their sales are in jeopardy because
of misleading claims by sugar makers, while the sugar industry
alleges false advertising by corn companies that try to market
their sweetener as no different than sugar.
The filing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is
a counter claim to a lawsuit brought in April of last year by
the sugar industry.
It is the latest in a lengthy legal and regulatory dispute
between Cargill, Archer-Daniels Midland Co and other
makers and users of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, who are
battling leading groups in the sugar industry, including
growers, sugar processors and their trade group, the Sugar
The two sides are wrangling over whether HFCS can and should
be marketed as similar to sugar.
"It's kind of a long and tortured process that has been
going on," said Adam Fox, a lawyer representing the Sugar
High fructose corn syrup is derived from corn and is used in
many foods and drinks. It is cheaper than natural sugar, which
comes from sugarbeets or sugarcane. The United States is the
biggest consumer and manufacturer of HFCS. The sweetener was
added to beverages such as Coca-Cola in the 1980s, but in recent
years food makers have been trying out a return to sugar after
some studies linked corn syrup to obesity.
Many food manufacturers have even been promoting the absence
of high fructose corn syrup to consumers.
Corn refiners had asked the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration to allow them to call HFCS "corn sugar" but were
rejected. They then tried marketing corn syrup as "natural" and
asserted that human bodies could not detect a difference between
HFCS and sugar. The sugar industry sued them for making false
In their Tuesday filings, Cargill, ADM, and ingredient
providers Ingredion Inc and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas,
say consumers are being misled. They argue there is no
scientifically proven correlation between HFCS and health
problems, and assert that the sugar industry's advertising
claims are false and are costing them sales.
"Both high fructose corn syrup and processed sugar are
nutritionally equivalent and consumers have a right to this
information," said David Knowles, a spokesman for the Corn
Refiners Association, commenting on behalf of Cargill, ADM,
Ingredion and Tate & Lyle. "At the end of the day, the focus
should be on the critical fact that high fructose corn syrup is
a form of added sugar, and that consumers should watch their
intake of all added sugars, regardless of source."
The lawsuit says that consumer spending is at stake.
"The deception created by The Sugar Association is likely to
influence consumer's purchasing decisions, for reasons that
include the implication that processed sugar is healthier to
consume than HFCS," the counter claim states. "Damages include
actual damages in the form of price erosion and lost profit."
Lawyers representing the Cargill and ADM group did not
immediately return a call requesting comment. The companies
Fox, the attorney for the sugar industry group, said the
allegations by the corn syrup companies are baseless.
"HFCS has gotten somewhat of a bad name. They can't change
the name, so now they are going to try to sling mud at the sugar
industry and try to blame it for all the problems they are
experiencing," said Fox.
"The bottom line is it (high fructose corn syrup) is not a
natural product. It is something that is synthesized," he said.
"It is not the same thing as real sugar."
Cargill has asked for a jury trial.
The case is Western Sugar Cooperative v
Archer-Daniels-Midland Company et al in the U.S. District Court
for the Central District of California No. 11-03473.