POM Wonderful: Did Health Claims Break Law?

POM Wonderful
POM Wonderful
(POM Wonderful)

(CBS/AP) POM Wonderful?

The Federal Trade Commission doesn't think so.

It filed complaints against the Los Angeles-based maker of the popular pomegranate juice and supplements, saying it broke the law by making false and deceptive claims about the products' ability to prevent and treat heart disease, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, and other conditions.

"Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a written statement. He said companies using scientific research in their advertising must have research that supports the claims.

POM Wonderful disagrees with the FTC, saying in a written statement that the government "is wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate."

POM Wonderful says on its website that it has spent more than $34 million to support scientific research on POM products since 1998. Study topics include muscle recovery, diabetes, antioxidant potency, heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

POM Wonderful is seen as starting the pomegranate craze that has spread to everything from tea to smoothies, hitting ice cream, martinis and salad dressings on the way. The company's health claims are a hallmark of its advertising.

Regulators said the ads were misleading in saying the research shows the juice or related pomegranate supplements prevent or treat certain diseases.

The FTC cited advertisements in national publications including The New York Times and Prevention, on Internet sites run by the company including pomwonderful.com and pompills.com, and elsewhere. Regulators question the scientific methods used and said some studies cited did not show POM Juice to be effective against the diseases.