Corn Syrup Logos

Depending on which side you’re on, the battle over what to call high fructose corn syrup has either sweetened — or soured.

Los Angeles U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled Wednesday that sugar refiners such as Cargill and Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) can be included in the April 2011 lawsuit filed by the Sugar Association, the Western Sugar Cooperative (WSC) and others against the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).

The lawsuit, the WSC says, is an attempt to keep the CRA and other large sugar refiners from labeling high fructose corn syrup as simply “corn sugar” for fear of misleading consumers. The CRA, meanwhile, says the label does not have to be so specific, as the human body cannot tell the difference between high fructose corn syrup and other sugars.

Nevertheless, the WSC says it is happy to see the focus turn to large sugar refiners, citing Marshall’s ruling that “plaintiffs allege with particularity facts for a false advertising claim against member companies ADM, Cargill, Corn Products, and Tate & Lyle.”

Additionally, sugar farmer attorney Adam Fox says increasing the scope of the suit could help millions of American corn product consumers.

“Judge Marshall’s ruling clears the way to allow this lawsuit to proceed so that we can assure an end to the false advertising and make the agribusiness giants behind it answer for their misconduct,” Fox says. “We look forward to taking the next steps in this important case.”

The CRA and involved sugar refiners are not as pleased, however.

“This ruling is solely about who is included in the lawsuit and has no bearing on the merits of the case which are about ensuring that consumers get the facts regarding high fructose corn syrup,” says Audrae Erickson, CRA president.”

The CRA believes Marshall made the only ruling pertaining to the case in a preliminary review in October, citing her statement that the sugar associations and farmers “have not presented any evidence to support their burden on the claims that CRA’s statements have influenced any purchasing decisions [or] that plaintiffs have suffered any injury.”

Additionally,  the CRA says it has the consumer in mind while it make its arguments, similar to the WSC and the Sugar Association.

“Consumers have a right to know what ingredients are in their food and beverages, especially as we’re seeing more and more people concerned with managing their sugar intake,” Erickson says. “It’s essential for consumers to understand that high fructose corn syrup is another kind of sugar despite the processed sugar industry’s attempts to censor our education campaign.”

Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration recently rejected the CRA’s petition to change the name of high fructose corn syrup because it “would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.”

A date for the current trial has not been set, but when it happens, conflicting testimonies will likely make deciding the case a bit sticky.