A federal administrative judge ruled on Monday that the pomegranate juice maker POM Wonderful isn’t all that.
Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled that the company made deceptive advertising claims in marketing its popular pomegranate juice product as a way to “treat, prevent or reduce the risk heart disease, prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction.” Chappell, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) chief administrative law judge, wrote in his decision: “The greater weight of the persuasive expert testimony demonstrates that there is insufficient competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate” such health claims made by POM.
The judge’s 335-page order upholds the majority of a complaint lodged by the FTC in 2010 against the Los Angeles-based company, owned by Lynda and Stewart Resnick. The order says POM Wonderful “shall not make any representation, in any manner, expressly or by implication, including through the use of a product name, endorsement, depiction, illustration, trademark or trade name, about the health benefits, performance or efficacy of any covered product, unless the representation is non-misleading.”
Violations of the order could be subject to a fine of $16,000 per incident, the Los Angeles Times reports. Unless POM formally challenges the judge’s decision, it will go into effect in 30 days.
“We do plan to appeal certain aspects of the ruling,” POM spokesman Corey Martin told the Times.
The judge did not agree with every complaint made in the original FTC lawsuit. He said, for example, that the requirement that POM get pre-approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any future advertising claims “would constitute unnecessary overreaching.”
The judge also did not agree that every marketing claim included in the complaint was deceptive.
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POM Wonderful, and its parent company Roll Global, are thereforecalling the ruling a victory. “We consider this not only to be a huge win for us, but for the natural food products industry,” said Martin in an email. “This is a significant win for consumers that validates the right to deliver important, scientifically validated health information to consumers.”
“We have always believed in the power of the pomegranate and are pleased that we will be able to continue to showcase the fantastic health benefits inherent in this wonderful fruit,” Stewart A. Resnick, President of Roll Global, said in a statement.