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Food & the Law

Lawsuit Against "Corn Sugar" Can Proceed

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Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 8:25 AM

click to enlarge Will the real sugar please stand up? - GUZZLE & NOSH
Big Sugar won the latest skirmish in the legal battle against Big Corn when a federal judge ruled that a recently filed lawsuit can proceed.

Last month, a coalition of sugar farmers led by C&H Sugar Company filed suit against the Corn Refiners Association over its attempts to rename "high fructose corn syrup" as "corn sugar."

HFCS, which has been blamed for obesity, heart disease and poor nutrition, has seen its sales drop in recent years. To combat the public's increasingly negative perception of the product, the CRA launched dopey TV ads touting the benefits of HFCS. The CRA also began the long process of petitioning the FDA to substitute "corn sugar" for "high-fructose corn syrup" on ingredient labels.

The Sugar Association considers it false advertising, and with billions of dollars potentially at stake, they're fighting for their share of the "natural" sweetener market.

The case will likely drag on for some time, but in the first major skirmish, U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall issued two opinions on Friday. In one, she said the plaintiffs had "met their burden in showing a reasonable probability of success on their argument that the statements are false." Judge Marshall also ruled that the challenged statements in the CRA's ad campaign do, in fact, "constitute 'commercial speech.'" In layman's terms, the lawsuit can proceed.

We said it before, we'll say it again:

"This lawsuit is as much about health as a Playmate reality show is about math skills. This is a fatuous battle between Big Sugar and Big Corn over which iteration of an unhealthy, possibly toxic product is slightly less bad for you."

Eating too much sugar, whether it's the traditional kind or high fructose corn syrup, is bad for you. And now, pass us a piece of pie, please.

[@elinashatkin / eshatkin@laweekly.com]

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