Sweet ending: Sugar groups, corn refiners settle lawsuit

by Jeff Gelski
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The two parties issue a joint statement, but they release no details on the settlement.

WASHINGTON — The sweetener battle is over. A sugar industry party, including the Sugar Association, and a corn refinery industry party, including the Corn Refiners Association, have reached a settlement in a pending lawsuit. The settlement’s details remained confidential.

“The parties 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,” the two parties said in a joint statement issued Nov. 20.

The case, Western Sugar Cooperative, et al. v. Archer Daniels Midland Co., et al., was being heard in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California in Los Angeles. The initial complaint was filed on April 22, 2011.

The issue goes back to 2008 when the corn refiners ran an advertising campaign that said HFCS was no different than sugar. The campaign was an attempt to stop the sharp decline in HFCS consumption and stem negative perceptions that had developed in the minds of many consumers. The corn refiners wanted to rename HFCS as “corn sugar,” which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration blocked in 2012.

Several sugar processors filed suit against the corn refiners in 2011. They claimed false advertising, among other things, and sought about $1.5 billion in real and punitive damages and fees. The corn refiners, in a countersuit, sought $530 million. They claimed, among other things, that sugar processors were spreading misinformation about HFCS.

A jury trial began on Nov. 3 of this year in Los Angeles.

Plaintiffs were The Sugar Association, Inc.; C & H Sugar Co., Inc.; United States Sugar Corp.; American Sugar Refining, Inc.; The Amalgamated Sugar Company L.L.C.; Imperial Sugar Corp.; MinnDak Farmers Cooperative; Western Sugar Cooperative; Michigan Sugar Co.; and the American Sugar Cane League U.S.A., Inc.

Defendants were the Corn Refiners Association, Inc.; Archer Daniels Midland Co.; Cargill, Inc.; Corn Products International, Inc. (now Ingredion Inc.); and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas L.L.C.
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