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Buffalo lawyer files lawsuit against makers of high-fructose corn syrup

Your News Now, June 22, 2013

By Ryan Whalen

A Western New York family believes high fructose corn syrup caused their daughter's Type-2 diabetes. Now they want the corporations that produce the sweetener to pay. YNN's Ryan Whalen reports on a local lawsuit that could have a national impact.

-High-fructose corn syrup is in all sorts of manufactured foods because it comes from corn and it's cheap to produce. But if a local attorney has his way, any product that contains it will have to come with a warning label, similar to alcohol or tobacco.-

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After consulting with a health expert, attorney Michael Hayes is reasonably certain high-fructose corn syrup was a cause of his client's Type-2 diabetes.

"As I understand it, there are six major manufacturers of this substance in the United States, so I sued all six," Hayes said.

The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages to cover the medical expenses and trauma suffered by the 14-year-old girl. Hayes believes the lawsuit is the first of its kind.

"There will be others if my assessment is correct that the product causes problems, there will be others," he said.

In the lawsuit, Hayes alleged not only that the sugar substance is harmful, but the industry does not do enough to warn consumers of the risks.

"I don't think you can blame the parents for it," he said. "The parents, as far as I know, all parents, do the best for their children as they possibly can, feed them the best things that they can."

The Corn Refiners Association called the claims false and unsubstantiated.

"In my reading and research, I have not typically found high-fructose corn syrup to be the lethal poison pill that everybody would like it to be," NYS certified nutritionist June Seaman-Knoerzer said.

Seaman-Knoerzer said high-fructose corn syrup is okay in moderation.

"It is in a lot of food items and it might not be labeled as such," she said. "So you have to be 'buyer beware' and have a good understanding of where your food is coming from."

But Hayes wants more than just the nutritional facts on the labels of products that contain the substance.

"You put a dangerous product on the marketplace, you have an obligation to make a warning," he said.

Hayes said the corn industry will fight this hard and he doesn't expect anything to come out of the lawsuit for at least a couple of years. But he said the science he'll present in court will open a lot of eyes about high-fructose corn syrup.