The battle between the artificial sweeteners

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I have a tiny addiction to Splenda. Ever since the zero-calorie sugar substitute came out, I've been unable to drink anything else. Equal and Sweet 'n Low just don't compare. Last week, I went into the Starbucks on University Circle and ordered a sugar-free, fat-free, substance-free cinnamon dolce latte. (Hold the cinnamon and the latte; just give me the Venti-sized cup of air.) But when I went to the condiments counter, I found to my utter dismay. There was no Splenda left. There wasn't even one tiny, half-used stray packet behind the counter (I checked). Apparently, the makers of Equal have heard of people like me. They're a tiny bit unhappy that Splenda now controls 62 percent of the artificial sweetener market. So they've reacted like any warm-blooded American corporation: They sued. Equal contends that Splenda has been misleading millions of people by insinuating that it's made from sugar and is totally natural. Splenda makers say that the process begins with a sugar base, even if the end result has, um, no sugar and its main ingredient, a non-nutritive sweetener, does not grow naturally anywhere, except in laboratories. The two companies are headed to court next week. I asked the baristas — that's Seattle for "clerks" -- whether there was a connection between the lack of Splenda and the court case. "No," the barista informed me. It was strictly due to the sweetener's popularity — and the horrible, horrible people who pocket extra Splenda after ordering a nutritious cup of air. I had the strange feeling she might have been talking about me. — Rebecca Meiser

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