The Federal Trade Commission has issued a complaint charging the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements with making false and unsubstantiated health claims.
The agency charges that POM Wonderful LLC and sister corporation Roll International Corp. and principals Stewart Resnick, Lynda Resnick and Matthew Tupper violated the FTC Act by making claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
"When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Contrary to POM Wonderful's advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treat or prevent these illnesses."
The complaint cites numerous claims made in national publications such as Parade, Fitness, The New York Times and Prevention, on the company's Web sites, in out-of-home advertising and on tags attached to the products. Some ads, for instance, state that POM juice is "backed by $25 million in medical research" and is "proven to fight for cardiovascular, prostate and erectile health."
The complaint includes a proposed order that would prohibit the companies from making any health claims without "competent and reliable scientific evidence." It would also require that any future claims of disease prevention or treatment for pomegranate-based products comply with Food and Drug Administration claim regulations, and specifically require FDA pre-approval of such claims. (FDA approval of health claims is not normally required for compliance with the FTC Act.)
In a related case, the FTC also announced a settlement with Mark Dreher, POM Wonderful's former head of scientific and regulatory affairs and "expert endorser."
The settlement bars Dreher from making disease prevention or treatment claims in advertising for POM products unless the claim meets FDA requirements and is not misleading. He is also prohibited from making other health claims for foods, drugs or supplements without proper scientific evidence.
An FTC administrative complaint is not an actual ruling that the law has been violated. The complaint is followed by a hearing before the administrative law judge. Consent agreements do not constitute an admission of guilt by the respondent.
According to the FTC complaint, POM Wonderful is a Delaware limited-liability company and Roll International is a Delaware corporation, and the two share a principal place of business in Los Angeles. Roll provides POM with shared services such as legal, consulting and human resources and works with POM through an in-house agency to create ads and determine media placement.
POM did not immediately respond to a call for comment from Marketing Daily.