Splenda is to face charges of false and misleading marketing and advertising. A federal court in Los Angeles made the ruling last Friday (15 April).

In December last year, the Sugar Association filed the lawsuit forcing McNeil Nutritionals and parent company Johnson & Johnson to change their advertising practices.

"McNeil has spent millions on a marketing and advertising campaign which has misled many Americans into believing that their product Splenda is as natural as sugar," the Sugar Association said in a statement yesterday. "Splenda is a hydrocarbon containing chlorine; it is not sugar, and it is not natural. It is in fact an artificial chemical sweetener."

"The most important issue the federal court decided last week was that the Sugar Association can represent its members in charging McNeil with false advertising under the federal Lanham Act," said Andy Briscoe, president and CEO of the Sugar Association. "We are pleased that the court has ruled in our favour on that issue."

On a separate issue, the court ruled that the member companies of the Sugar Association would need to bring claims on their own behalf if they want to seek money damages. "It is clear that thousands of sugar growers in the US are suffering financially because of consumer confusion thinking Splenda is natural," the Association concluded.