LOS ANGELES, Nov. 02, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- After several years of hearings, a federal jury trial is set to begin tomorrow in the $1.5 billion false advertising case brought by sugar growers against the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) and their members, Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE:ADM), Cargill Inc, Tate & Lyle (LON:TATE), Ingredion Inc (NYSE:INGR) and others.
“This lawsuit is about false advertising, pure and simple. This case may change the way food is made in America. The lawsuit aims to stop the corn processors' false advertising so that families know the truth about the food they buy,” said Mark Lanier, lead attorney for the sugar growers. “The lawsuit alleges that the CRA engaged in a blatantly false campaign to promote high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “corn sugar,” while describing it as “natural” and “nutritionally the same as sugar.”
“At the center of the lawsuit is the $130-million “Sweet Surprise” print, online and television advertising campaign by the CRA, which falsely touted HFCS as natural and equivalent to sugar. During the trial, the jury will be able to assess critical evidence about HFCS and the conduct of its marketers. While reviewing more than 700,000 pages of confidential documents during discovery, it was revealed that some of the defendants tried to conceal information from the public about HFCS and debated the wisdom of making the “natural” case to consumers,” said Lanier. We will show the jury that they were sneaky and dishonest and secretly colluded with the CRA and urged them to seek a name change for HFCS to corn sugar, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ultimately rejected.”
“We intend to prove to a jury that the defendants’ claims that HFCS is a ‘natural’ product equivalent to real sugar are knowingly false. In fact, the evidence will show that there are signed affidavits attesting to an exactly opposite conclusion. In 1997, as part of an effort to expand the production and consumption of HFCS in Mexico, the defendants claimed that production of HFCS would not conflict with the Mexican sugar production. In fact, the defendants submitted documents to the Mexican government declaring that HFCS is not natural but is, instead, a fabricated product requiring advanced technology. Indeed, they declared that HFCS is derived from cornstarch that has been subjected to two molecular level transformations. In a supporting affidavit, the defendants told the Mexican government ‘HFCS is a unique food ingredient that is the result of extensive scientific research and development,’ ” stated Lanier.
“Among other things, the 2008 CRA ad campaign told consumers that ‘sugar is sugar’ and that ‘your body cannot tell the difference between sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.’ The misleading ad campaign caused price erosion and lost profits stemming from the artificially reduced demand for sugar caused by defendants’ false and misleading Sweet Surprise campaign. The sugar farmers brought this lawsuit when it became clear that efforts were underway to steal the good will of the “sugar” brand that has been safely used by our families for centuries," concluded Lanier.
The trial that will be heard in front of U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall has far-reaching implications for the food industry and American consumers. The sugar industry’s lawsuit is primarily based on Section 43 of the 1946 Lanham Act, which prohibits false or misleading advertising. The underlying lawsuit, Western Sugar Cooperative v. Archer-Daniels-Midland, Co., was filed in April 2011 by a group of sugar farmers to stop the corn processors’ advertising. In May 2012, the Food and Drug Administration rejected a petition by the CRA to change the common name for HFCS to “corn sugar” saying that corn sugar is a term used for dextrose for more than 30 years.
The FDA stated that “the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.” The FDA also said the name change could “pose a public health concern” to persons with fructose intolerance or malabsorption. The sugar companies complaint states, “Defendants’ resort to such literally false and misleading statements harms consumers, harms the farmers and makers of real sugar (sucrose), and harms any dialogue based on the truth.”
Judge Marshall ruled on an earlier motion that the sugar farmers have presented evidence demonstrating “a reasonable probability of success on their argument that the statements (made by the corn processors) are false.”
Broadcast Quality Video
Video downloadable at: http://bit.ly/1XzQAYJ
- Two sound bites from lead attorney Mark Lanier framing his opening trial arguments
- B-roll of Los Angeles Federal Court exteriors
- B-roll of shoppers reading package labels
- B-roll of soda can vending machines
- B-roll of tight shots of various soda cans showing they contain high fructose corn syrup or other artificial sweeteners but none contain actual sugar
Video downloadable at: http://bit.ly/1HfDlpd
- Sound bite from the controversial HFCS TV ad campaign
- Sugar farmer
- Consumer talking about the case
Source:The Sugar Association