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The History of Sugar

Sugar cane is one of the oldest cultivated crops known to man. Sugar along with honey are the oldest natural sweeteners.

9000 BC -  Indications of primitive sugar production from sugar cane in New Guinea

2500 BC –  Experts agree the first evidence of beekeeping for honey appears in the paintings of ancient Egypt, dating from around 2500 B.C. (National Honey Board)

500 BC - The process of making sugar by evaporating juice from sugar cane developed in India. 

327 BC - Alexander the Great discovers sugar cane, then spreads it through Persia and introduces it in the Mediterranean.

200 BC - Chinese Emperor T’ai Tsung sends a successful scientific mission to study sugar manufacturing from sugar cane in India. Asian traders then bring sugar to the Middle East and westward into Africa. 

AD 641 - The Arabs learn to cultivate sugar cane after conquering Persia, and spread it to East Africa and southern and eastern Mediterranean. Using irrigation, sugar cane is then cultivated in Cyprus, Egypt, Morocco, Sicily and Spain, resulting in the first major European sugar source.

1493 - Columbus brings sugar cane to the New World on his second voyage.

1747 – Chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf uses alcohol to extract sugar from beets, but his methods did not lend themselves to economical industrial-scale production.

1751 Sugar cane is introduced to the United States when Jesuit missionaries bring it to New Orleans, Louisiana.

1812 - Partly in response to a British blockade of France that prevented sugar cane imports from the Caribbean, Benjamin Delessert invents a sugar extraction process from beets suitable for industrial use in France.

1878Saccharin (benzoic sulfinide) is accidentally invented by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist working on coal tar derivatives in a laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University. 

1879 – E.H. Dyer opens the first successful sugar beet factory in the United States.

1957 - Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi invent the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

1965 - Aspartame was accidentally invented by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company.

1974 - The FDA grants aspartame approval for restricted use in dry foods, only to reverse its decision the following year when a psychiatrist claimed it caused brain damage in animals.

1975 - HFCS begins to be rapidly introduced into many processed foods and soft drinks in the U.S.

1976 - Sucralose is invented by scientists from Tate & Lyle.

1981 Aspartame again receives FDA approval. 

1993 – Florida Crystals launches natural cane sugar product line.

1998 – Florida Crystals becomes the only producer of certified organic sugar in the U.S., marketed through the Florida Crystals® brand.

1998 - The FDA approves sucralose (Splenda®), for use in the U.S.

2006 - The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatens a lawsuit against Cadbury Schweppes for labeling 7 Up as "All Natural" or "100% Natural" despite containing HFCS. CSPI claimed that HFCS was not a “natural” ingredient due to the high level of processing and the use of at least one genetically modified (GMO) enzyme required to produce it.

2008 – Florida Crystals® Natural and Organic sugar become the first American sugar to be certified Carbonfree®

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