Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM:US) and three other corn refiners lost a bid to dismiss a sugar-producers’ lawsuit alleging they misled consumers with advertising claiming high-fructose corn syrup is natural and the same as sugar.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in Los Angeles ruled yesterday the sugar producers provided enough facts to support their claims and for the lawsuit to proceed. The judge dismissed the suit against Roquette America Inc.
“Plaintiffs do not allege any individual, wrongful conduct against Roquette,” Marshall wrote. “Plaintiffs do not allege sufficient facts to state a claim against Roquette.”
A group of sugar growers and refiners last year sued ADM, Roquette, Cargill Inc., Corn Products International, Tate & Lyle (TATE) Ingredients Americas and their trade association, claiming that an advertising campaign that promotes high-fructose corn syrup as “natural” and “nutritionally the same as table sugar” is false and misleading.
The sugar producers, in an amended complaint filed in November, said the corn refiners initiated the advertising campaign in 2008 in response to the “growing vilification” of high-fructose corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in soft drinks and has been linked to an increase in obesity in the U.S., and a “resulting drop in sales.”
The sugar producers say corn sugar is a distinct sweetener made from corn starch, while high-fructose corn syrup is a man- made substance created by transforming some of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose that doesn’t naturally occur in the plant.
Sugar Land, Texas-based Imperial Sugar Co. and seven other companies and two trade groups seek triple damages under U.S. antitrust law and a court order to block the corn refiners from making the claims.
The case is Western Sugar v. Archer-Daniels-Midland, 11-3473, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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