Sara Lee, Kraft Declare Taste Test Truce in Hot Dog War

Battle Over Who Makes the Winningest Weiner Settled Out of Court

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Kraft Foods and regional rival Sara Lee Corp. declared a truce in their legal war over which company truly makes the best hot dog in the U.S.

The Illinois-based food purveyors, who are based about 30 miles apart, each issued statements announcing a settlement that ends a trial which started Aug. 15 in federal court in Chicago.

"Sara Lee is pleased with the outcome and looks forward to continuing to produce its leading hot dog brand, Ball Park," a spokesman for the company, Mike Cummins, said in an e-mailed statement. He declined to disclose the terms of the accord.

Consumers in the U.S. bought more than $1.6 billion worth of hot dogs last year, eating about 7 billion of them -- a rate of 818 per second -- from the Memorial Day federal holiday in late May to Labor Day at the beginning of September, according to statistics compiled by the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, a Washington-based meat industry advocacy group.

In 2009, Sara Lee sued Kraft, maker of Oscar Mayer wieners, claiming the world's second-biggest food company was deceiving consumers with a claim that its franks were 100% pure beef and lying about taste test results.

Kraft, based in Northfield, countersued Downers Grove-based Sara Lee, accusing the smaller company of falsely advertising how its product fared in a taste contest.

"Let the wiener wars begin," U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow declared at the outset of the non-jury trial. He heard seven days of testimony and argument before the adversaries recessed on Aug. 23.

"The case has been settled," Sydney Lindner, associate director of corporate affairs for Kraft, said earlier today, the Chicago Tribune reported.

While she declined to disclose specific settlement terms, Ms. Lindner told the Tribune that no money was exchanged and that neither company's marketing practices would change.

She didn't immediately reply to e-mail and voicemail requests seeking comment after regular business hours.

-- From Bloomberg News --

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