Judge Allows Big Sugar's False Advertising Lawsuit Against "Corn Sugar" To Move Forward

It’s been nearly six months since we first reported on the false advertising lawsuit filed by a group of sugar companies against the makers of the ad campaign to rebrand controversial sweetener high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar.” Well, there has finally been some movement in the case as a judge declared on Friday that the federal portion of the suit can move forward.

The Sugar Association is trying to put a stop to the Corn Sugar campaign, claiming that it misleads consumers by equating HFCS with cane sugar.

But the Corn Refiners Association call the Corn Sugar ads and websites an “educational campaign is science based and supported by a wide variety of medical and scientific experts.” As such, claimed the CRA, they do not sell any products and are not actually advertisements.

However, the U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles ruled that “The statements themselves also clearly are promoting corn syrup to food and beverage purchasers,” and thus “constitute commercial speech.”

The CRA did win a bit of the war on Friday, as the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s state-level lawsuit in California, and also dismissed the individual corn companies — including Archer Daniels Midland, Cargil, Tate & Lyle — which had originally been named as defendants, leaving only the CRA.

“We are gratified by Judge Marshall’s ruling and we look forward to a final resolution of our case so that the Corn Refiners Association is forced to end its deceptive campaign aimed at misleading American consumers,” said the lawyer for the Sugar Association in a statement to Consumerist.

Meanwhile, CRA president Audrae Erickson cautions, “It is important to note that this does not mean the sugar industry’s allegations are true… only that they have alleged enough to get to the next stage of the case on the Lanham Act claim.”

In September, it was reported that the FDA, which has yet to approve the CRA’s petition to officially relabel HFCS as Corn Sugar, is not pleased with the ad campaign and had politely asked the CRA to “re-examine… and modify statements that use the term ‘corn sugar’ as a synonym for (high fructose corn syrup).”