Spherix, the US company which manufactures the sweetener tagatose, has begun legal proceedings against its licensee MD Foods (now part of the Swedish Arla group), claiming that the Danish company has taken an "unreasonably long time to bring tagatose to market".
The company is seeking damages from MD Foods because of the delay, and is also seeking other measures to accelerate the pace at which food products using tagatose are launched.
Dr Gilbert V. Levin, CEO of Spherix, said: "While we want to recover damages, our main thrust in calling for arbitration is to ensure that production and sales begin in the shortest possible time. We are looking toward the future. Our licensee, in private and public statements, recognised that tagatose will be a major world product."
MD Foods said as long ago as 1999 that it hoped to benefit from the pre-biotic properties of tagatose to create food products which could aid digestion and reduce the levels of harmful bacteria in the colon. It also said that there could be anti-cancer properties associated with the product.
Tagatose earned Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status in the US in April 2001, meaning that it can be legally marketed there, but as yet MD Foods has failed to produce a single product containing the sweetener.
The Danish firm has not yet commented on the arbitration proceedings.