FTC files complaint against Pom Wonderful, juicemaker responds

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On September 27, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Pom Wonderful LLC, sister corporation Roll International Corp., and its principals “as part of its ongoing efforts to uncover over-hyped health claims in food advertising.” The FTC takes issue with Pom Wonderful’s “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.”

Pom Wonderful, makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements, is being targeted for the following statements which ran in national publications and newsletters as well as on billboards and product tags:
  • “SUPER HEALTH POWERS! … 100% PURE POMEGRANATE JUICE. … Backed by $25 million in medical research. Proven to fight for cardiovascular, prostate and erectile health.”
  • “You have to be on pomegranate juice. You have a 50 percent chance of getting [prostate cancer]. Listen to me. It is the one thing that will keep your PSA normal. You have to drink pomegranate juice. There is nothing else we know of that will keep your PSA in check. … It’s also 40 percent as effective as Viagra.”
  • Clinical studies prove that POM Juice and POMx prevent, reduce the risk of, and treat heart disease, including by decreasing arterial plaque, lowering blood pressure, and improving blood flow to the heart;
  • Clinical studies prove that POM Juice and POMx prevent, reduce the risk of, and treat prostate cancer, including by prolonging prostate-specific antigen doubling time;
  • Clinical studies prove that POM Juice prevents, reduces the risk of, and treats, erectile dysfunction.

“Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made. Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.”

In response to the FTC complaint, Pom Wonderful issued a statement which includes the following excerpts:
POM Wonderful fundamentally disagrees with the FTC and believes that the commission’s allegations against POM are completely unwarranted.

Pomegranates are food – highly nutritious produce, designed by nature itself. Because POM products may in fact offer the promise of better health, we believe it is important to share the research results as they become available. This is especially true since our products do not carry the risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs. It’s a shame that the government is unable to understand this fundamental distinction, and instead is wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate.

POM believes very strongly in its first amendment rights to communicate the promising results of our extensive scientific research program on pomegranates. We believe the commission is acting beyond its jurisdiction, exceeding its authority, and creating a new regulatory scheme that attempts to treat our juice as a drug, which it is not. The FTC is violating POM’s constitutional rights to share useful and important information with the public, and therefore we have initiated a separate lawsuit to preserve these rights.
The hearing on this matter will be held in eight months.

Daelyn Fortney | @daelyn
Daelyn is the co-founder & managing director of This Dish Is Veg. In addition to her work at TDIV, Daelyn homeschools her three daughters.

Photo credit: Pom Wonderful

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