The next battle in the Splenda wars is about to begin.
A hearing in a false-advertising lawsuit against the company that makes the sweetener is scheduled for Monday in federal court in Los Angeles. Filed by five U.S. sugar companies, the suit claims McNeil Nutritionals has deliberately misled consumers with its "made from sugar, tastes like sugar" advertising campaign.
"We believe it is manipulation on an important subject," said Dan Callister, a lawyer for the Sugar Assn. Inc.: "what you are going to eat for the rest of your life."
McNeil, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, N.J., says the suit has no merit and should be dismissed because the sugar companies waited too long under the law to take legal action. The only reason the companies sued in 2004 -- four years after the "tastes like sugar" ad campaign began -- was that "Splenda presents a unique threat to the sugar industry," McNeil says in court documents.
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