The first step in a high-stakes battle with important ramifications for consumers took place in a Los Angeles courtroom last week.
A coalition of sugar farmer's cooperatives and other producers, including C&H Sugar Company, have accused corn producers of High Fructose Corn Syrup with what could be called "food identity theft."
Among defendants are Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill and the Corn Refiners Association.
The accusing sugar farmers charge that the defendants spent $50 million in a mass media re-branding campaign which misleads the consumer by asserting that high fructose corn syrup is natural and it indistinguishable from the sugar extracted from sugar cane and beets.
They seek a U.S. Food & Drug Administration ruling to allow HFCS to be calle4d "corn sugar," on food and beverage ingredient labels, even though "corn sugar" has for many decades been the commonly used name of a distinct corn starch product.
Defendants currently claim theirs is a "natural" product equal to the real sugar. In 1997, as part of an effort to expand production and consumption of HFCS in Mexico, defendants submitted affidavits attesting to the opposite conclusion in order to support their claim that HFCS would not conflict with Mexican sugar production, the plaintiff's state.
In these documents, the sugar growers bringing the suit charge that that statement was, in fact, admission by the defendants that their product was not natural.,
The growers also say the campaign conducted by the defendants which claims "sugar is sugar," is in error in implications that the product is as natural as beet or cane products.
The ongoing lawsuit in federal court says the defendants' three-year, $50 million re-branding marketing blitz has misled, frustrated and confused consumers who are increasingly trying to avoid food and drinks containing HFCS.
Although some manufacturers have been replacing HFCS with beet or cane sugar in response to consumer concerns, the plaintiffs allege that the corn refining industry's marketing campaign has artificially slowed the decline of HFCS sales and harmed the goodwill of "real" sugar.