The Federal Trade Commission upheld an Administrative Law Judge’s decision that the marketers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements deceptively advertised their products and did not have adequate support for claims that the products could treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, and that they were clinically proven to work.
The FTC issued an Opinion upholding Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell’s May 2012 Initial Decision that the POM marketers made false or deceptive advertising claims.
The Commission Opinion found that the POM marketers made deceptive claims in 36 advertisements and promotional materials challenged at trial after issuing a September 2010 administrative complaint – going beyond Judge Chappell’s ruling, which found false or deceptive claims in only 19 of the challenged items.
The FTC issued an order barring POM marketers from making any claim that a food, drug, or dietary supplement is “effective in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease,” including heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, unless the claim is supported by two randomized, well-controlled, human clinical trials. The order also prohibits misrepresentations regarding any test, study, or research, and requires competent and reliable scientific evidence to support claims about the “health benefits, performance, or efficacy” of any food, drug, or dietary supplement.
The Commission rejected the POM respondents’ arguments that the Commission’s actions would violate their First Amendment rights, or their Fifth Amendment right to due process.
The challenged ads appeared in national publications such as Parade, Fitness, The New York Times, and Prevention magazines; on Internet sites such as pomegranatetruth.com, pomwonderful.com, and pompills.com; on bus stops and billboards; in newsletters to customers; and on tags attached to the product.
In other action, Kansas City attorney Shawn Foster, of Davis, Bethune & Jones has filed a handful of potential class action lawsuits against the makers of POM Wonderful for allegedly making false claims about the health benefits of pomegranate juice.