Posted by Linda Bonvie
September 7, 2012
Like that really annoying kid in the third grade who won’t stop kicking the back of your chair, it seems Big Corn can’t stop kicking around the notion that its ubiquitous, laboratory-derived concoction, high fructose corn syrup is a “form of sugar,” despite the Food & Drug Administration informing them back in May that HFCS does not meet the regulatory definition for actual “sugar.”
In the latest legal action, several giant companies that make HFCS, including Cargill and Archer-Daniels-Midland, have countersued the Sugar Association, saying the group has made “misleading representations” about HFCS. And, as to be expected, all the statements and press releases issued by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) use the “s” word numerous times when referring to its HFCS product.
Last year, sugar growers and refiners filed a complaint in Los Angeles federal court alleging that the CRA and its member companies have conspired to “deceive the public” about the test-tube sweetener. And in March, those HFCS manufacturers went back to court, asking the judge to dismiss the portion of the case against them, claiming the Corn Refiners Association was solely responsible for the big-bucks ad campaign proclaiming that “sugar is sugar.” But like the CRA’s attempt to officially rename HFCS “corn sugar,” that didn’t’ work either. In the beginning of August, the judge ruled that the case will proceed against the CRA and four member defendants named in the suit.
In the just-filed action, CRA spokesman David Knowles is quoted in a wire story as saying that the Sugar Association has created a “deception” about HFCS – one that will cause HFCS-making companies to suffer damages “in the form of price erosion and lost profit.”
Sugar Association attorney Adam Fox is quoted in the same article, saying that “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.”
A case that puts a spotlight on the pervasiveness of HFCS
The side benefit of all this being hashed out in court might very well be all the various expert witnesses brought in to testify – and, in the process, shine a critical spotlight on the presence of HFCS in so many processed foods, from soda to ketchup to yogurt to snack cake.
In the press release issued by the CRA about the countersuit, spokesman Knowles reiterates previous comments by his trade group to the effect that “The Sugar Association’s lawsuit (is) part of a ‘silencing campaign.’” intended to “censor our efforts to communicate the simplest and most meaningful fact about high fructose corn syrup. It’s a form of sugar, and consumers should reduce their intake of all added sugars.”
So in essence, what the CRA is asking the court to do is counteract the FDA and allow it to “educate” the public that HFCS is not only no different from sugar metabolically, but no different from sugar at all.
In fact, right on its website, the CRA continues to insist that “(h)igh fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of sugar that is made from corn.” To which is added, “It is comprised of glucose and fructose, the same simple sugars found in table sugar,” although it doesn’t specify what percentage is fructose – which is precisely what the new petition being circulated by Citizens for Health is aimed at making the manufacturers of HFCS disclose on product labels.
Perhaps it will take a court ruling to ‘silence’ the Corn Refiners Association and its member companies by ordering them to cease, once and for all, trying to sell its product under the “sugar is sugar” mantra. If that should result, the best part would be an end, finally, to those commercials about how HFCS is nothing more than sugar made from corn. That, alone, would make this whole sticky situation worthwhile.
Be sure to take a moment to sign the new Citizens for Health petition asking the FDA to take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows), and also, in the interim, to provide accurate label information so consumers know just what they’re buying (you can read the petition here ). This “truth-in-labeling” petition asks that the FDA require a manufacturer that uses HFCS to state the fructose percentage in that HFCS formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.