Food companies sued in federal court over high fructose corn syrup

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 21, 2013, 5:25pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) -- A group of food companies are being sued in a New York federal court over allegations that their product, the highly controversial high fructose corn syrup, is linked to type 2 diabetes and that they failed to warn consumers of its possible dangers.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York Monday.

The named defendants include Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Cargill Inc., Ingredion Inc., Penford Products Company, Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas LLC and Roquette America LLC, all manufacturers of the commercial sweetener.

The complaint, which was filed on behalf of a 14-year-old New York state girl diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, states that the companies have falsely promoted the syrup as "natural."

In particular, the plaintiff -- the girl's parent -- points to a $30 million advertising campaign by the companies called "Sweet Surprise" that attempts to recast the ingredient as "natural, nutritionally the same as table sugar and has the same number of calories."

Specifically, the campaign claims that "sugar is sugar" and "your body can't tell the difference."

"The foregoing claims are particularly egregious since scientific studies demonstrate clear molecular differences between HFCS and sugar, as well as clear differences in how the human body processes the respective substances," the complaint states.

The plaintiff went as far in the 17-page complaint to describe how the syrup is linked to, and can cause, type 2 diabetes.

"The fructose in HFCS is a contributing cause of metabolic syndrome in humans. Unlike glucose, which can be metabolized by all organs, fructose is primarily metabolized by the liver," the complaint states.

"Fructose activates a particular liver enzyme which acts as a bridge between liver metabolism and inflammation. This inactivates a key messenger of insulin action with leads to liver insulin resistance.

"The lack of insulin effects in the liver deprives the body of its ability to keep glucose levels down, resulting in increased blood glucose levels which leads to type 2 diabetes."

According to the complaint, the plaintiff is seeking $5 million for the girl's "severe and serious permanent injuries," loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, emotional distress, future "lifelong and permanent" medical complications incurred -- including the probability of surgery and shortened life expectancy -- and medical expenses to comply with the "rigorous" dietary and pharmaceutical restrictions for the rest of her life.

Read the entire complaint here.

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