FTC suing POM Wonderful for unsubstantiated health claims

A promotional photo of various POM beverage products.

POM Wonderful LLC claims their drinks prevent or treat disease. The FTC begs to differ. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/PopSop)

Savvy individuals know that the concept of truth in advertising is largely a misnomer. However, a company can only go so far without proof to back up claims made about a product or service. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has sued POM Wonderful LLC of Los Angeles, makers of a popular pomegranate juice drink. The FTC’s lawsuit alleges that POM Wonderful juice and POMx supplements contain “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.”

POM Wonderful facing stiff challenge from FTC

There are numerous POM Wonderful ads that specifically state that their products are “proven to fight for cardiovascular, prostate and erectile health,” reports the WSJ. Such claims as a “30 percent decrease in arterial plaque” and “17 percent improved blood flow” do now have sufficient supporting scientific evidence, says the FTC. POM Wonderful claims the company’s statements are true and supported by “unprecedented scientific research,” questionable language that may not be helping POM Wonderful’s claims of legitimacy.

“Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled,” David Vladeck of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a media statement.

POM Wonderful had filed a pre-emptive suit against the FTC

According to POM Wonderful, the FTC’s requirements are unreasonable. Two weeks before the FTC even generated its lawsuit, POM Wonderful had gone on record that the FTC’s requirements were squelching POM Wonderful’s First Amendment free-speech rights. While the FTC hasn’t played the former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes card of falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater as an illustration of the limits of free speech, POM Wonderful’s health claims – if indeed the claims are unsubstantiated – do raise reasonable questions, considering their specificity. In one series of ads, POM Wonderful claims that drinking pomegranate juice is the only way to reduce PSAs (prostate-specific antigens). This has not been proven in a scientifically rigorous manner, according to the WSJ. Consumers are expected to buy based on unsubstantiated claims.


Wall Street Journal

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