Corn Refiners Association Denounces ‘Pay-for-Play’ Consumer Group

WASHINGTON — According to the Corn Refiners Association, true consumer groups are supposed to be independent of commercial interests that could bias their agenda and compromise their integrity. Then there is Citizens for Health, which has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sugar industry to attack high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) through press releases, relentless blogging, and petitions directed at government regulators.

While two national reporters have already exposed the pay-for-play relationship between The Sugar Association and Citizens for Health, the group in the past few weeks has disseminated two more press releases attacking HFCS, while presenting itself to unsuspecting journalists as a “one of the country’s most respected consumer advocacy groups.” Fortunately, to date, very few reporters have been duped by the failure of Citizens for Health to fully disclose its connections to The Sugar Association.

Here are 10 reasons why the news media and consumers should continue to view Citizens for Health with extreme skepticism:

1. Citizens for Health is actually run out of the law firm of Swankin & Turner, which represents several commercial interests.

2. Citizens for Health’s founder and chairman is James Turner, name partner of Swankin & Turner.

3. Citizens for Health’s publicly available 2011 tax returns state, “The organization has no employees.”

4. Citizens for Health has received at least $300,000 from The Sugar Association, according to an investigative report by Bloomberg News. Citizens for Health did not disclose this funding publicly until a Bloomberg reporter contacted an outside attorney for The Sugar Association.

5. Citizens for Health’s chairman, James Turner, when confronted with the massive contribution from The Sugar Association, told Bloomberg, “We will make it clear as we go forward,” that FH is sugar-industry funded. But Citizens for Health press releases attacking HFCS continue to omit that a substantial portion of its budget consists of sugar industry funding.

6. Citizens for Health, according to tax returns, declared just $15,730 in revenue in 2010. A year later, possibly as a result of a massive infusion of money from The Sugar Association, it reported $314,522 in revenue.

7. Citizens for Health has a history of attacking other sweeteners. In 2005-2006, court records show it accepted money from The Sugar Association at a time when the sugar industry was engaged in public attacks and litigation against the sweetener, Splenda.

8. Citizens for Health employs a wide range of pressure tactics against HFCS and other targets. Its benefactors, players in the US sugar industry, have a history of aggressively challenging not only other sweeteners but also the scientific community, as recently documented in the Mother Jones cover story, “Sweet Little Lies, The 40-Year Campaign to Cover Up Evidence that Sugar Kills.”

9. Citizens for Health, which looks for every opportunity to attack high fructose corn syrup, rarely if ever has anything educational (or critical) to say about processed sugar, which is nutritionally equivalent to HFCS; nor does it call on consumers to reduce or manage their consumption of total sugars, which is the position of the mainstream health community.

10. Citizens for Health is not an independent, credible consumer group. It accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch advocacy campaigns that support the commercial interests of its backers.

About The Corn Refiners Association

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.