Sugar Industry Ramps Up Misinformation Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 24, 2012

CONTACT: David Knowles
202-331-1634

WASHINGTON, DC – When you don’t have the facts, generate confusion.

That is apparently The Sugar Association’s game plan, as today through yet another press release they continued to grasp for a rationale as to why anyone should support their self-serving lawsuit aimed at suppressing an education program intended to communicate to the public the simple fact that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a sugar.

“The sugar industry is, once again, trying to muddy up the indisputable fact that HFCS is a sugar and it is clearly in the public’s best interest to know that,” said Audrae Erickson, president of CRA. “Apparently, they haven’t heard that numerous respected national organizations including the American Medical Association and the Food & Drug Administration have long recognized High Fructose Corn Syrup as a sugar. What’s even more troubling is how fanatical they have become in their attempt to censor our efforts to communicate the simplest and most meaningful fact about our product: it’s a sugar. Let’s be frank: The Sugar Association is waging a silencing campaign, it is unseemly, and it is clearly not in the best interests of consumers. They are putting profits before people and that is unacceptable.”

Moreover, The Sugar Association’s May 24 press release included several misleading and demonstrably erroneous statements. They misstated FDA’s definition of sugars, which, in fact, includes High Fructose Corn Syrup. The press release also distorted the way HFCS is metabolized, which numerous scientific studies demonstrate is the same among all forms of sugar, regardless of whether they come from beets, cane, corn or honey. Their press release further mischaracterized their previous legal set-back as a victory when, in reality, a judge dismissed their claim as one that was “meritless” and “aimed at chilling expression through costly, time consuming litigation.”

“The important thing for consumers and the news media is not to be duped by disinformation flowing out of The Sugar Association,” said Audrae Erickson. “Educating consumers about our product may not be in their interest, but it is clearly in the interest of the American public.”

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The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, ethanol, starch, bioproducts, corn oil and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein and fiber.

Visit us on the Web at http://corn.org

Fact Sheet:
Lawsuit Over the Right to Communicate the Facts about HFCS

What is this lawsuit all about?

The Corn Refiners Association has initiated a public education campaign to communicate the simple fact that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a form of sugar, widely accepted in the medical and nutrition communities to be nutritionally equivalent to table sugar. In April 2011, The Sugar Association and its member companies sued CRA, claiming that the public education campaign is “false and misleading.” From a consumer standpoint, this lawsuit is about two core issues: Is HFCS a form of sugar that is metabolically the same as sugar from other sources? Does the Corn Refiners Association have a right to communicate this information to the public?

What is the significance of the ruling about whether CRA members are part of the lawsuit?

A federal judge will soon rule on whether CRA’s member companies–corn refiners that produce HFCS–will be included as individual defendants in the lawsuit. It is CRA’s position that they should not be included because the education campaign is solely an activity of the association, not individual companies. Whatever the outcome, this ruling has no bearing on the merits of the case. It is not an indication as to which side is “winning the lawsuit.” This is merely one procedural ruling in a case that will likely proceed for well more than a year before it even goes to trial.

Why does The Sugar Association so aggressively publicize even minor developments in the case?

The Sugar Association and its outside lawyers and publicists are seeking to win in the media what they are unlikely to win in the courtroom. Given that HFCS is a form of sugar–and the clear right of CRA to communicate this fact to the public–beet and cane sugar interests need to make this case seem to be about other issues. They are doing this, in part, by stoking the same discredited misinformation about HFCS that has contributed to the need to launch an education program in the first place. This case is not a popularity contest as to which form of sugar people like most. Rather, it is a case that will set an important precedent as to whether the sugar industry can silence CRA simply because it seeks to stifle discussion about ingredients in foods consumed by the American public.

What happens next and how long until this case finally goes to trial?

In June, the court will next determine the terms governing the discovery phase of the trial, including duration. This is simply another procedural step and, again, is not about the case’s pivotal legal issues. Most likely, the discovery phase will proceed for at least a year–perhaps longer. This case still has a long way to go before it even gets to trial.