According to one of my dictionaries, this is the definition of sugar:

sugar: (noun)

1 a sweet crystalline substance obtained from various plants, esp. sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting essentially of sucrose, and used as a sweetener in food and drink.

2 Biochemistry any of the class of soluble, crystalline, typically sweet-tasting carbohydrates found in living tissues and exemplified by glucose and sucrose.

Well, I know sugar.  Sugar is a good friend (often foe) of mine.  And high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), you are no sugar.

Watching the the sugar industry and the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) duke it out in court over whether HCFS should be rebranded as “corn sugar,” or not, makes for great theater.  The war of words and litigation are analogous to small market baseball team fans making the choice between rooting for the Yankees or Red Sox: neither is appealing.

Now we have a fight in the courts over what can be called sugar or not.  Watch for the sweetener wars to become even more exciting as various industry groups defend their respective turfs.

The two trade associations and their allies are entangled in litigation that began when the CRA decided that it would rename HCFS as “corn sugar.”  The tussle began earlier this year when the CRA lobbied the Food and Drug Association (FDA) to permit the name change.  Because more consumers are concerned over HFCS in their food products, the CRA would prefer the labeling “corn sugar.”  Never mind the fact there is such a thing as corn sugar:  it is called dextrose.  Furthermore, the corn lobby has a poor record of transparency in showing what goes behind the manufacture of HFCS.  To that end, the Western Sugar Cooperative was one plaintiff that took the CRA to court over allegations of false advertising and deception.

So far the sugar association is ahead in the litigation contest.  On Friday, U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall ruled against the CRA with two opinions stating the lawsuit against corn processors must go forward.

Not that the sugar industry is a victim.  Sugar companies in any form are more concerned with protecting their business than taking care of their customers.  One quick visit to The Sugar Association’s site admonishes us that sugar’s role in the obesity epidemic is overstated.  Sugar companies have the right to protect their turf, but any doctor will tell you that over-consumption of sugar, which has been increasing for years, is a huge factor in chronic diseases from obesity to diabetes.  What consumers need is a clear definition of what sugar is based on scientific facts, not public relations or marketing jargon.

Who will win the sugar litigation is anyone’s guess.  A dictionary definition, scientific explanation, or common knowledge will not necessarily hold up in court.  CRA has the concept of “free speech” behind them while the sugar industry can cite regulatory precedents.  No matter who wins, the real loser will be consumers unless they are proactive, learn about sugar’s effect on health, and choose the best foods for themselves and their families--because the trade associations cannot and should not make those choices for us.

Published on Triple Pundit earlier this week.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.