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Cane sugar v. corn syrup: Battle of the sweeteners

Cane sugar and corn syrup at going at it in court. Sugar doesn't want to be confused with syrup and they both want to hold onto their markets.

Jeremy Hobson: In a courtroom here in Los Angeles this morning, it's Big Sugar versus Big Corn. Sugar producers claim their rivals in the high-fructose corn syrup business misled consumers in a campaign aimed at improving the corn sweetener's image. They want the ads off the air and they want to be paid for damages.

Marketplace's Sarah Gardner reports.


Ad: I learned whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.

Sarah Gardner: Those were fightin’ words to the sugar industry. Attorney Adam Fox says corn refiners are trying to make high-fructose corn syrup sound natural.

Adam Fox: It is a man-made product that uses advanced technology that wasn’t even developed until the 1960s.

Sugar has benefited from the backlash against high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener’s been cast as a dietary villain by anti-obesity campaigners, despite little scientific evidence it’s less healthy than regular sugar.

Marketing consultant Jonathan Salem Baskin sees this as a market-share battle between two nutritional no-nos.

Jonathan Salem Baskin: Whatever the outcome, isn’t the next question then, well, what are we going to do about too much sugar?

A recent report said kids and teens now get about 16 percent of their daily calories from sugar of all kinds that are added to processed foods.

’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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