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Sugar Industry in a Stretch: Pitching New Study To Create False Scientific Controversy

Sugar Industry in a Stretch: Pitching New Study To Create False Scientific Controversy

December 19, 2011

CONTACT: David Knowles
(202) 331-1634

WASHINGTON, DC – Yet again, the refined sugar industry is trying to confuse Americans about the health aspects of refined sugar as compared to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This time, the sugar industry is basing these claims on a faulty consumer survey and an inconclusive scientific study.

The study, published in the current edition of Metabolism, was an attempt to evaluate the effect of high fructose corn syrup. However, the authors were unable to draw meaningful conclusions based on their data, and conceded the study had “several limitations.”

According to Audrae Erickson, President of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), “This study does not compare high fructose corn syrup to sugar made from cane and beets, and it did not use real-life diets as a model. In fact, the authors noted that the sugar, or sucrose, had ‘broken down’ into the very same sugar compounds contained in HFCS. The study is also inconsistent with the great weight of scientific authority showing the nutritional and metabolic equivalence of HFCS and sucrose.”

In a news release today, the refined sugar industry also attacked CRA for asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow the name “corn sugar” as an alternative name for HFCS on food labels. Not surprisingly, the refined sugar industry served up the results of its own “consumer research” study in support of its position.

“We look forward to examining this latest study,” says Erickson. “At first blush, it appears to be evidence that the refined sugar industry is working hard to confuse consumers about sugar made from corn.”

“The survey did not measure whether consumers understand that HFCS is a sugar. Instead, it purports to examine whether changing the name of HFCS to corn sugar on labels would ‘reduce consumer misperceptions about HFCS,'” says Erickson. The survey does not address these misperceptions at all, and addressing these misperceptions is the key to clearing up consumer confusion. “In fact, the term high fructose corn syrup confuses consumers, because it is not high in fructose at all,” said Erickson.

The sugar industry has also filed a lawsuit against CRA and its member companies to block CRA’s efforts to educate consumers.
In October, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that CRA’s statements were made in furtherance of its right to address issues of public importance, and that the sugar plaintiffs had failed to present any evidence that CRA’s statements influenced consumers’ purchasing decisions or that the plaintiffs had suffered an injury.

“We believe that the refined sugar industry is determined to confuse American consumers,” Erickson says. “The CRA will continue its work to educate consumers about high fructose corn syrup and will vigorously oppose the sugar industry’s attempt to stifle public discussion of this important health issue.”


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.

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