Big Sugar Sues Big Corn Over "Corn Sugar" Ad Campaign For HFCS

Last year, the Corn Refiners Association began a campaign to rebrand controversial sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “corn sugar.” Well that has managed to rankle the folks behind non-corn sugar, who say it is false advertising and have now taken their complaint to a U.S. District Court.

The suit, filed by Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C & H Sugar Company, Inc., names such agribusiness biggies as Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Tate & Lyle and the aforementioned Corn Refiners Association as defendants. It claims that the “corn sugar” campaign attempts to steer consumers away from concerns regarding HFCS by equating it with sugar.

“This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple,” sayeth the President and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative. “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.”

According to a statement from the sugar group, the corn club started this rebranding effort only after an increase in consumer demand for food and beverages made with sugar led to a decline in HFCS sales.

In a statement sent to Consumerist, the Corn Refiners Association writes:

The name ‘corn sugar’ more accurately describes this sweetener and helps clarify food products labeling for manufacturers and consumers alike. The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food & Drug Administration in September 2010 to more succinctly and accurately describe what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from–corn.

High fructose corn syrup makes many healthy foods palatable and affordable for American consumers. It is disappointing that another sweetener would sue the competition for its own gain – and stand in the way of consumer clarity about added sugars in the diet.

Simply, this lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our right to petition the FDA to clear up consumer confusion about the name.

The plaintiffs seek an injunction to end the advertising campaign and damages, including compensation for corrective advertising.

Speaking of ads, we were going to embed one of the hilariously folksy Corn Sugar ads, but the Corn Refiners Association has disabled embedding.

Sugar Farmers Sue Corn Processors for Falsely Marketing High-Fructose Corn Syrup as ‘Sugar’ [Press Release]