POM Wonderful just got some not-so-wonderful news. The maker of pomegranate juice and supplements once again has been slapped down by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptively advertising that POM products were clinically proven to treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
In a unanimous decision, the FTC today upheld the opinion of chief administrative law Judge Michael Chappell who found in May that POM's ads in publications such as Parade, Fitness and The New York Times made unsupportive health claims. POM appealed the judge's decision back to the FTC.
Coming down hard on POM, the FTC found that POM was deceptive in 26 ads and promotional materials, more than the 19 identified by the judge.
The final order bars POM from making claims that a food, drug or dietary supplement is "effective in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease" unless it is backed up by two clinical trials. It rejected POM's arguments that the FTC violated the company's First Amednment rights, or their Fifth Amendment right to due process.
Under the Obama Administration, the FTC has aggressively gone after advertisers for making unsupported health claims. The FTC first took action against POM in 2010 and POM has been fighting back ever since.
Seemingly unweary from a two-year fight with the FTC in the courts, POM remains defiant and intends to appeal the FTC's decision in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it could end up a test case for the FTC's new standard of what is "reliable and scientific" to back up a claim.
"With this ruling, the FTC is taking the unprecedented step of holding food companies like POM Wonderful to the same standards as pharmaceuticals," the company said in a statement. "By holding health food companies to pharmaceutical research standards and 'implying' disease treatment claims that are not being made, the FTC is going to stifle research across the entire food industry. Consumers will be denied access to emerging science on the potential health benefits of fruits and vegetables. This would be a giant step backward in the campaign to get Americans to eat healthier."