Sugar, Corn Syrup Industries Settle Bitter Lawsuit Mid-Trial

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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO -- Major sugar companies and corn refiners including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) have settled litigation over an ad campaign about high fructose corn syrup, the parties said Friday in a joint statement.

Terms of the settlement, which was reached in the middle of trial, weren't disclosed.

Several sugar refiners including global leader ASR Group alleged in a 2011 lawsuit that a Corn Refiners Association advertising campaign describing high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar" and "natural" was false. The corn refiners countersued, saying the Sugar Association falsely said in its newsletter that corn syrup caused obesity and cancer.

The case came amid an overall decline in sweetener demand, particularly of corn syrup. The U.S. slowdown is due in part to concerns about high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Corn refiners argued that sugar processors weren't damaged because they enjoyed record sales and profits during the ad campaign. The sugar growers sought $1.1 billion in compensatory damages over the campaign. The corn refiners asked for about $530 million in their countersuit.

Both sides "continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners," the parties said in a joint statement on Friday.

In 1999, the average American consumed 85.3 pounds of corn sweeteners a year, compared with 66.4 pounds of sugar, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. However, by 2014 corn sweetener consumption had dropped to 60.7 pounds, while sugar consumption stood at 68.4 pounds.

Overall, the average American consumed 131.1 pounds of sweetener in 2014, down from 153.2 pounds in 1999.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 ruled that corn syrup, used to sweeten foods including soda, couldn't be called sugar.
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