Judge: POM Juice Marketing Is Deceptive

Ruling says the pomegranate juice company made false claims about the health benefits of its product.
Turns out, POM juice might taste good, but it isn't a cure-all. (Photo: Courtesy of POM Wonderful)
May 22, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Nichol Nelson hails from Minnesota, but has worked in food journalism in New York and Los Angeles for more than a decade. She served as an editor with Gourmet magazine for six years, and has contributed to several other digital and print food publications.

In retrospect, perhaps it was too good to be true: After all, what were the chances a delicious, sweet-tart juice could also cure heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction? In terms of marketing, POM's campaign ranks up there with shoes that promise to make your legs more shapely.

In a ruling Monday, Chief Administrative Law Judge Michael Chappell upheld a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission filed in 2010. In essence, that complaint charged POM and its parent company, Roll International Corp., with making a host of unsubstantiated health claims about the juice, reports the Associated Press. Turns out, studies didn't bear out the company's assertion that the juice prevented or treated heart disease, prostate cancer, or erectile dysfunction.

Judge Chappell ordered POM to cease all misleading claims of health benefits, performance and efficacy for its juices unless it has scientific proof to back them up.

Amusingly, the company is spinning the ruling as a win:

“Through its lawsuit against POM, the FTC tried to create a new, stricter industry standard, similar to that required for pharmaceuticals, for marketing the health benefits inherent in safe food and natural food-based products. They failed,” explained Craig Cooper, Chief Legal Officer for POM Wonderful LLC. “While we are still analyzing the ruling, it is clear that we will be able to continue to promote the health benefits of our safe, food products without having our advertisements, marketing or public relations efforts preapproved by the FDA and without having to rely on double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies, the standard required for pharmaceuticals. We consider this not only to be a huge win for us, but for the natural food products industry.”

Well, if getting busted for making false health claims is a win, then yep, POM definitely came out ahead this week. Cheers!

What do you think it's going to take to get food companies to market their products ethically?