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Inside POM Wonderful's Insane War Against the FTC

A few days ago I said POM Wonderful had picked a fight with the FTC it would lose by alleging in a lawsuit that the FTC was enforcing advertising rules that went beyond its purview. On Monday, the FTC sued POM and forced a consent agreement with POM's former head of scientific and regulatory affairs banning him from making any more medical claims about POM.

POM's response? To bait the FTC even more with a web page titled "Stop Persecuting Pomegranates."

This is a set of cases that ought to be examined closely by any company making health claims about their food: Screw with the FTC at your peril.

The claims POM has made for its drink -- that it will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction -- are completely bonkers. But many other food marketers are making similar claims that sound science-y but are in fact bogus. Coca-Cola (KO), Snapple and Nestle (NESN) have all been similarly dinged by litigation.

With POM, the FTC seems to be sending a pretty clear message to food brand managers: Stop making over-hyped health claims about your products. If you do, not only will we sue you, but we'll do to you what we just did to POM, which is force the company to get any of its health claims in its advertising pre-approved by the FDA.

Given that POM's own expert endorser has already signed a consent agreement, and the FTC is suing the company, it is hard to believe that POM will win its own, separate civil suit against the FTC.