Which would you rather sweeten your iced tea with? Something with a label that reads “phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine” or “made from sugar”? That’s the crux of a lawsuit that begins today in a Philadelphia courtroom.

According to “In Battle of Sweeteners, Promoters to Slug It Out,” an article in the Chicago Tribune, The fortunes of of artificial sweeteners have been in flux. Equal, the little blue packet of aspartame, used to have a 33.9 percent share of the marketplace, while Splenda had a mere 13.9 percent. Now, Equal is at 13.7 percent while Splenda is at 59.8 percent.

Is it because Splenda can say it’s “made from sugar”?

Merisant, the maker of Equal, believes it is, and that the consumer has been misled into thinking that Splenda is made with sugar, instead of confected in a lab from molecules pried out of sugar.

For grammar geeks, the trial should prove fascinating, as it hinges on the interpretation of three little words.

Philadelphia Federal District Court Judge Gene Pratter sees the dispute as focused on language.

‘The phrase “made from sugar,” may sound simple enough, and may eventually prove not to be misleading to consumers, but it has spawned [an] epic battle among the parties over proper diction and syntax,’ she wrote in an opinion earlier this month when she refused to dismiss the Merisant lawsuit.

‘For example, McNeil claims that “made from sugar” clearly excludes the interpretation that Splenda is sugar, or that Splenda is made with sugar. Made with sugar would mean that sugar is an ingredient listed on the package. … McNeil asks the question, “How could a consumer interpret a product that is ‘made from sugar’ and ‘tastes like sugar’ as actually being sugar?”’

As a die-hard fan of actual sugar in my coffee, I think anyone tasting either product would probably never confuse them for the glittery white stuff.

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