Foes in the sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) industries on Friday announced resolving litigation in California federal court.
The years-long spat pitted the likes of the Sugar Association Inc. and American Sugar Cane League of the U.S.A., Inc. against Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Cargill Inc. and the Corn Refiners Association Inc.
The settlement—the terms of which were not disclosed—was reached in the middle of trial, Reuters reported.
“The parties 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 litigants said in a joint statement.
In 2011, the sugar industry sued corn refiners and their trade association, alleging false advertising and seeking relief under California’s Unfair Competition Law and the federal Lanham Act. The federal statute gives companies an avenue to crack down on rivals for unfair competition.
The defendants “crafted a campaign to revitalize and rebrand HFCS," which had been linked to possible health and nutritional problems, according to the initial complaint. The campaign including promoting HFCS as “natural," making claims that HFCS is “nutritionally the same as table sugar," and characterizing it in advertising and pricing sheets as “corn sugar," the lawsuit alleged.
Neither side ceded ground. Plaintiffs filed amended complaints, and the defendants countersued. According to Reuters, the sugar growers sought $1.1 billion in compensatory damages, while the corn refiners asked for about $530 million in their countersuit alleging the Sugar Association falsely said in its newsletter that corn syrup caused cancer and obesity.
The lawsuit is reflective of the costly disputes between rivals in the food and beverage industry over advertising claims that can endure for years in the trial and appellate courts.
The case, Western Sugar Cooperative et al. v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company et al, has been pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.