Western Sugar Litigation
What Is The Lawsuit About?
The Corn Refiners Association has initiated a public education campaign to communicate the simple fact that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a form of sugar, widely accepted in the medical and nutrition communities to be nutritionally equivalent to other forms of sugar, including table sugar. Eight makers of processed table sugar and two sugar trade associations sued CRA, claiming that the public education campaign is "false and misleading." From a consumer standpoint, this case comes down to a singular issue: does CRA have the right to communicate to consumers the fact that HFCS is nutritionally and metabolically equivalent to other forms of sugar?
Plaintiffs’ Suit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation
In October 2011, the Court ruled on CRA’s motion to strike the Plaintiffs’ state law claim, which was identical to the federal claim currently pending. The Court found that Plaintiffs’ identical state law claim was a strategic lawsuit against public participation under the California Anti-SLAPP statute, and struck the claim from the case.
As the Court observed in its ruling, the Anti-SLAPP statute “is designed ‘to allow early dismissal of meritless first amendment cases aimed at chilling expression through costly, time-consuming litigation.’” The Court recognized that to survive the Anti-SLAPP motion, the Plaintiffs needed only to demonstrate a “minimum level of legal sufficiency and triability.” Plaintiffs, however, were unable to meet this “minimum level” of legal sufficiency and triability.
The Court ruled that Plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that they have been injured by CRA’s statements, or that CRA’s speech has influenced any consumer purchasing decisions. The Court also ruled that CRA’s speech was “in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest.” Read the ruling here.
Who Are The Litigants In This Lawsuit?
The Plaintiffs are all makers of processed sugar or trade associations representing processed sugar makers: C & H Sugar Co., Inc.; United States Sugar Corporation; American Sugar Refining, Inc.; The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC; Imperial Sugar Corporation; Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative; Western Sugar Cooperative; Michigan Sugar Co.; the American Sugar Cane League U.S.A, Inc.; and The Sugar Association, Inc.
The Defendants are the Corn Refiners Association, Inc., a trade association representing the corn wet milling industry, and the members of the CRA who make HFCS: Archer-Daniels-Midland Company; Cargill, Inc.; Corn Products International, Inc. (n/k/a Ingredion Incorporated); Roquette America, Inc.; and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc.
What Is The Current Status Of The Lawsuit?
On September 4, 2012, the CRA member companies filed a Counterclaim against The Sugar Association based on The Sugar Association’s false and misleading representations that processed sugar is different from HFCS in ways that are beneficial to consumers’ health. The Counterclaim further alleges that The Sugar Association’s statements deceive consumers into believing that they will be healthier if they consume foods and beverages with processed sugar instead of HFCS.
The next step in the lawsuit will be to determine the terms around the discovery phase of the trial, including the duration of discovery. This is simply another procedural step and is not about the case's pivotal legal issues. Most likely, the discovery phase will proceed for at least a year – perhaps longer.
What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of sugar that is made from corn. It is comprised of glucose and fructose, the same simple sugars found in table sugar.
Learn more about HFCS here.
Read some important Myths vs. Facts to learn more.