Whether in television commercials or on the shelf, many food products are touting that they’re free of high-fructose corn syrup. Not fair and false advertising, says its producers and advocacy groups, because it’s the nutritional equivalent of table sugar. Not true and also false advertising, says producers and refiners of cane sugar, who are suing a corn refiners trade group and its members over this claim. A jury in a California federal district court has been tasked with this sticky case.
According to Marketplace, the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup peaked in 1999 but then began to drop. The reason? Dan Webb, a lawyer for the Corn Refiners Association, says it’s because “myths started to arise” about the product, claiming it could be worse for one’s health than table sugar due to its processing. Webb points out that table sugar is processed as well. Millions of dollars for a marketing campaign, including trying to change its name to “corn sugar,” did little to change this growing perception of high-fructose corn syrup.
Per Darren Seifer, the NPD Group’s food and beverage industry analyst, it’s not clear which way this case will go but that in the “court of public opinion it looks like sugar might have won already.” But, says Seifer, regardless who enjoys the sweet victory, both industries have a bigger fight on their hands as consumers look to cut down sugar consumption in all forms.