Splenda is sued over sugar claim

File/Staff
AUGUSTA CONNECTION
The NutraSweet Co.'s 250-employee plant in east Augusta is one of the world's largest producers of aspartame. The Chicago-based company supplies aspartame to food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Cadbury Schweppes. At full capacity, the plant can produce up to 14.5 million pounds of aspartame a year.

PHILADELPHIA - The marketers of Splenda have confused consumers and food makers by unfairly distancing the sugar substitute from other artificial sweeteners by claiming it is natural, its chief rival told a jury Tuesday.

The jury will decide whether McNeil Nutritionals has misled consumers by suggesting in its ads and packaging that Splenda contains sugar.

Merisant Co., which makes tabletop Equal and NutraSweet brand aspartame sweeteners, says Splenda contains no sugar and is instead sweetened with a synthetic compound through a complex chemical process. McNeil counters that Merisant is trying to win in a courtroom after losing on store shelves.

Merisant attorneys told jurors in their opening statement Tuesday that McNeil, through its advertising and packaging, misled consumers into thinking that Splenda was safer and more healthful than other artificial sweeteners.

"McNeil documents show that they knew consumers were confused and they didn't do anything to stop it," Merisant lawyer Gregory LoCascio said.

McNeil lawyer Steven Zalesin said Merisant filed suit in 2004 simply because Splenda, introduced about seven years ago, outsells Equal about 4-to-1.

More