FTC upholds health claim case against POM juices

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged POM Wonderful on Sept. 27, 2010 with deceptive advertising for claiming its pomegranate juice and POMx pills "prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." POM Wonderful

POM Wonderful pomegranate juices and supplements cannot boast claims that the products are clinically proven to treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction, according to a ruling upheld Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Yesterday's 5-0 ruling upholds a May decision by an administrative court judge, who was ruling on a 2010 FTC complaint of deceptive advertising against POM and its parent company, Los-Angeles-based Roll International Corp.

The FTC's original complaint alleged that the company's heart disease claims were false and unsubstantiated because many of the studies conducted by the company did not show benefits from exclusively using POM products for treating or preventing heart disease. The government agency also alleged that the prostate cancer claims were false and unsubstantiated because the study POM relied on was neither "blinded" nor controlled, among other reasons. The erectile dysfunction study did not show POM was any more effective than a placebo, according to the complaint.

POM hit back at the FTC days after the ruling with its "FTC v. POM - You be the judge" campaign, which noted the presiding judge Michael Chappell, agreed that there was "competent and reliable scientific evidence" that pomegranate juice and extract may support prostate health.

POM's owners, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, said the ruling violated the company's First Amendment free speech rights and Fifth Amendments rights to due process.

The FTC rejected those arguments yesterday, and issued a final order that bars POM marketers from making any future claims unless it is supported by two randomized, well-controlled, human clinical trials. It also prohibits the misrepresentation of any scientific evidence to support its claims.

POM issued a statement to CBS News:

"POM Wonderful categorically rejects the FTC's assertion that our advertisements made any misleading disease treatment or other health claims," the statement read. "This order ignores what $35 million of peer-reviewed scientific research, centuries of traditional medicine and plain common sense have taught us: antioxidant-rich pomegranate products are good for you."

The FTC said the company has 60 days to appeal.

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