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Equal is a brand of artificial sweetener containing aspartame, dextrose and maltodextrin. It is marketed as a tabletop sweetener by Merisant, a global corporation which also used to own the well-known NutraSweet brand when it was a subsidiary of Monsanto and which has headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, Switzerland, Mexico, and Australia. In French Canada, Equal is known as "Égal".
In the early 1980s, Equal and its European counterpart, Canderel, were the first aspartame-based sweeteners to be sold to the public. Up to that point, there was only one artificial table sweetener available, which was saccharin.
Equal is sold variously as a bottled powder ("Equal Spoonful"), in blue individual-serve sachets or packets, and as a dissolving tablet for use in beverages such as tea and coffee.
An Equal sachet contains dextrose, aspartame (1.7%), acesulfame potassium (1.2%), starch, silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent), maltodextrin, and unspecified flavouring. Equal tablets may also contain lactose.
Despite ongoing controversy as to whether aspartame is safe or harmful, aspartame-based products have gained regulatory approvals permitting sale in more than 100 countries. Merisant's NutraSweet company states that aspartame is now used in more than 5,000 products and consumed by some 250 million people worldwide. These include The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico.
In 2006-2007, Merisant and McNeil Nutritionals were involved in a protracted legal battle over marketing for Splenda. (Main article: Sucralose.) On January 9, 2009, Merisant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.