Lawsuit Filed Over POM Juice Claims

POM Wonderful LLC, maker of trendy pomegranate drinks, was just sued by federal regulators working to end advertising that makes <"">false health claims, said the Wall Street Journal. The suit, filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FCC), alleges that advertisements for POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POM supplements contain, “false and unsubstantiated claims” about the treatment and prevention of cardiac disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, said the Journal.

The FTC cited one ad in particular that says, “New research offers further proof of the health-healthy benefits of POM Wonderful juice,” adding that the juice leads to a “30% decrease in arterial plaque” and “17% improved blood flow,” quoted the Journal. Meanwhile, POM argued that the FCC’s accusations were both “completely unwarranted” but also violated POM’s constitutional rights, said the Journal. The government is “wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate,” said POM, quoted the Journal.

The FCC lawsuit names POM Wonderful’s owners, Lynda Resnick and Stewart Resnick, citing an appearance on the popular Martha Stewart television show by Mrs. Resnick in which she touted her juice as deflecting prostate cancer, advising men to drink eight ounces of the juice daily, noted the Journal.

The Resnicks also own bottled water company, Fiji Water and Teleflora, the well-known flower deliverer, said the Journal. Resnicks charities include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, wrote the Journal, noting that the museum just opened the $45 million Resnick Pavilion with a tony guest list that included the actor Tom Hanks, reality celebrity star Kim Kardashian, and the singer Christina Aguilera.

The FTC is hoping POM will change its website ads and stop its print ads and is also requesting that POM receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for future ads in which it makes claims that the juice “cures, prevents, treats, or reduces the risk of any disease,” quoted the Journal. Both agencies have been working on the cleanup of false ads in which food products are hyped as medicinal and curative.

While companies such as Nestlé SA and Kellogg Co., have amended their claims following agency warnings, POM refused recently filing a lawsuit against the FTC claiming the agency’s prescreening of its ads is prior restraint, violating its First Amendment free-speech rights, said the Journal, noting that Nestlé agreed to this screening by the FDA when settling with the FTC.

“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, quoted the Journal. “Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses,” Vladeck added.

Misleading food labels are not only illegal, they have had a hand in the growing problem of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other problems, in the United States due to false claims and confusing nutritional information.

Most recently, we wrote that the FDA sent warning letters to 17 food makers, advising them to correct misleading label claims. Among the foods cited was POM pomegranate juice. In all, 22 food items were cited for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That action followed an October 2009 statement by Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., encouraging companies to review product labeling to ensure compliance with FDA regulations, and that statements be truthful and not misleading.

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