Lawyers for both sides are scheduled back in federal court Thursday. Specifically, they're arguing over discovery, but what may seem like a procedural ministop in this legal saga reveals how poisonous the atmosphere has become.
Soda sales in the U.S. total an estimated $76 billion a year. That's a lot of sugar water, and sugar would like to regain its crown as the sweetener of choice.
In court, lawyers for the Western Sugar Cooperative are asking a judge to force the CRA and its member companies to stop blacking out large swaths of documents considered confidential. They claim that documents that have been unredacted reveal that "defendants willfully deceived the public and press."
The sugar group accuses corn syrup manufacturers and lobbyists of masking millions of dollars in payments to scientists and others to promote the health and safety of HFCS even while questioning the validity of their claims.
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Evidence includes a series of emails, including two from ADM's head of external affairs, David Weintraub. In one, he warns the CRA that videos promoting HFCS as "natural" are "asking for trouble." In another, he suggests that efforts to change the name of HFCS to "corn sugar" could come across as "dishonest and sneaky."
There is also an email from the CRA about a pro-corn syrup campaign by Consumer Freedom, launched through a Washington public affairs firm hired by the association. "As you know, our sponsorship of this campaign remains confidential," it said.
Weintraub declined to comment to CNBC on the pending litigation.
Finally, a 2010 study by the University of Southern California inked HFCS to the rise of Type 2 diabetes. Shortly after, the CRA brainstormed with consultants about hiring a third party to conduct a similar study using a larger sample.
"If for any reason the results confirm USC, we can just bury the data," wrote Consumer Freedom's David Martosko, according to evidence submitted in the case.
Asked for comment, the CRA trade group referred CNBC to a press release focused on its claims that the U.S. sugar industry has conducted a "spin and smear conspiracy" against HFCS and its producers.
"The sugar industry, through its trade group, has knowingly deceived the public in an effort to frighten consumers away for sugar alternatives, particularly HFCS," the statement said.
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The CRA claims that many of the disputed documents in discovery involve "sensitive and proprietary budget information."
The association accuses the Western Sugar Cooperative of "wildly" claiming that corn refiners are engaged "in a 'sinister conspiracy' to hide information important to public health and safety—while never articulating exactly what health information is supposedly being hidden from the public. There is none."
The CRA and its partners go on to accuse sugar producers of their own cloak-and-dagger practices, saying, "If anything, it is the Plaintiffs who have engaged in a spin-and-smear conspiracy to scare the public into consuming sugar over HFCS."