Snake Oil

Judge Deems POM Wonderful’s Health-Centric Advertising Misleading

Heart logos are still totally legal.
Heart logos are still totally legal. Photo: Haleyface via Flickr

Remember when POM Wonderful’s voluptuous bottles of pomegranate juice first hit supermarket shelves? Those were the days: The stuff tasted good, and it was supposedly great for your heart and prevented cancer and fixed broken boners and all that stuff insinuated in the brand’s print, web, and television ads. Yesterday, a federal judge pretty much confirmed the health claims are bullshit, upholding complaints from the FTC filed in September 2010 that the L.A.–based company misled customers through false advertising about the juice’s health benefits. After hearing expert witnesses debunk some of the company’s science, Chief Administrative Law Judge Michael Chappell ordered POM to cease with all misleading ad claims on Monday. So why is Roll Global, the company behind the product, celebrating the decision?

CBS reports that the makers of POM released a statement celebrating the judgment as a big victory for the food industry. The company’s joy stems from the fact that the FTC originally suggested strict new research methods be employed by any company seeking to make health claims about their product’s benefits, which sounds, you know, reasonable. If the FTC got its way, companies like Roll Global would have to get FDA preapproval and also conduct their own double-blind placebo tests, much like pharmaceutical companies must do, before making claims about their products’ health benefits. And, guh, what a drag for those companies, right?

Instead, Roll can now legally make claims about the juice based on other “competent reliable scientific evidence” that notes the magical powers of the pomegranate. Currently, the company rallies behind 65 studies under a website called “Wonderful Pomegranate Research” with no direct advertising from the company itself, but suspiciously sharing the same color scheme and some subliminal suggestions connecting the two.

The company is also ecstatic that it wasn’t considered to be breaking any laws for making false claims and further interprets the ruling as proof that “only a fraction of these could be construed as making implied claims that POM Juice or POMx treats, prevents or reduces the risk of disease.”

Currently, the company is taking its time with the federal ruling, which needs 60 days to go into effect, before deciding whether to take the judgment as it is or continue the fight against anyone asking them to do some research before branding their product as a miracle cure.

POM Wonderful deceptively advertised health claims in juice ads, judge rules [CBS]

Judge Deems POM Wonderful’s Health-Centric Advertising Misleading