POM Wonderful charged with selling snake oil

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite being rich in antioxidants, pomegranate juice is probably not an effective treatment for heart disease and other serious health conditions.

That's according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday against POM Wonderful LLC, which makes POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements, among other products made from the fruit.

The Federal Trade Commission said POM Wonderful violated trade laws by making "false and unsubstantiated claims" that its products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.

"Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled," 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 treats or prevents these illnesses."

The FTC wants to make any future claims about the health benefits of pomegranate juice subject to verification by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the agency's complaint.

In a statement responding to the charges, POM Wonderful said the case is "unwarranted" and that it "fundamentally disagrees" with the allegations. The FTC, the statement said, "is wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate."

"We do not make claims that our products act as drugs," the company said. "What we do, rather, is communicate, through advertising, the promising science relating to pomegranates."

POM Wonderful said the case goes beyond the FTC's jurisdiction by attempting to regulate a juice as a drug.

The company went on to say that the FTC is violating its "constitutional rights" to share information with the public, adding that it has filed a lawsuit against the government to "preserve these rights."

In its complaint, the FTC identified several advertisements in which POM Wonderful allegedly mislead consumers about the disease fighting powers of pomegranate juice, which the agency says were based on dubious scientific research.

Among the ads POM Wonderful ran in print publications, web sites and billboards nationwide was one claiming that POM Juice is "proven to fight for cardiovascular, prostate and erectile health." The company further claimed that the health benefits of POM products had been "backed by $25 million in medical research."

But the FTC alleges that many of the scientific studies POM Wonderful conducted were either false or did not show any of the health benefits that the company asserts in its advertising.

POM Wonderful maintained that there is a "vast body of scientific research" documenting the health properties of pomegranates. The company said it has spent $34 million over ten years to support further studies.

"We take pride in having initiated a program of modern scientific research to investigate the health benefits of this ancient and revered fruit," the company said.

POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice, which comes in a distinctive bottle shaped like an hourglass, is widely available at grocery stores nationwide. It retails for about $3.99 in a 16 oz. bottle. POMx pills and liquid extract are sold via direct mail, with a one-month supply costing approximately $30.

This was not the first time POM Wonderful has drawn the attention of federal regulators. The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to POM Wonderful in February admonishing the company for promoting claims more suited to a drug than food products.

Matt Tupper, POM Wonderful's president, was named in the FTC complaint, along with fellow executives Stewart Resnick and Lynda Resnick. The agency also charged a POM Wonderful affiliate, Roll International, in the lawsuit.

The FTC case comes less than two weeks after POM Wonderful won a lawsuit against rival juice maker Welch's for claiming that its pomegranate juice was 100% pure.

The verdict in that case was "a clear win for consumers who are constantly bombarded by deceptively labeled products marketed by big juice companies," Tupper said in a statement at the time. "Based on their cleverly designed labels, these products appear to contain large quantities of exotic and healthy juices when in fact nearly all of the ingredients are cheap filler juices." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,265.99 109.14 0.64%
Nasdaq 4,593.43 31.24 0.68%
S&P 500 2,011.36 9.79 0.49%
Treasuries 2.63 0.03 1.12%
Data as of 8:06am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.04 0.27 1.61%
Yahoo! Inc 42.08 -0.50 -1.19%
Apple Inc 101.79 0.21 0.21%
Microsoft Corp 46.68 0.16 0.34%
General Electric Co 26.21 0.16 0.61%
Data as of Sep 18

Sections

Online furniture retailer Made was in such a hurry to win business in a new Scotland, it pushed out the wrong email to customers. More

The Federal Reserve is probably not going to raise interest rates until the summer of 2015 at the earliest. More

Immigrant entrepreneurs leverage connections abroad to boost international exports -- and non-immigrants could stand to learn from their tactics. More

A 10,000 square-foot home doesn't take care of itself, and many of the uber wealthy families who own them don't want to tend to them either. So they hire people like Bryan Peele. Here are journal entries from a day in his life. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.