Billion Dollar Corn Syrup False Ad Case Settles

November 24, 2015
The battle between sugar and corn syrup companies, which once appeared as though it would never end, came to an abrupt, anti-climatic, conclusion with an announced settlement agreement on November 20, 2015.

In 2011, Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company, C&H Sugar Company and other sugar companies filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Central District of California against the Corn Refiners Association and its members. In the lawsuit, the sugar companies allege that the Association falsely advertised high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar” and, in doing so, misled consumers to believe that corn syrup was a natural nutritional equivalent to sugar. The dispute focused on an advertising campaign that portrayed corn syrup as “nutritionally the same as table sugar” and said, “Your body can't tell the difference.” The sugar companies alleged that the false marketing resulted in losses to them due to manufacturers switching from using sugar in products to using corn syrup. The sugar companies were seeking to recover over $1 billion.

The Association denied that any of their ads made false statements. Additionally, it asserted that the sugar companies did not suffer any financial harm. The Association also filed a counterclaim claiming that its members had suffered financial losses of over half a billion dollars due to misstatements the sugar industry had been making about high fructose corn syrup dating back to 2003.

The settlement came in the middle of the trial, just as the Association was preparing to call its first witness. Although the details of the settlement are confidential, the sugar companies and the Association released a joint statement that the parties will “continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.”

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