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June 4, 2012

Pom (Not So) Wonderful Fights Back

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:41 am

The Federal Trade Commission recently sued the maker of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice contending that it did not have reliable evidence to back up the health claims it made.

A federal administrative law judge two weeks ago ruled in favor of the FTC, issuing a cease and desist order against the company because it did not have sufficient evidence to support its claims that its juice reduced the risks of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence. (Full decision)

Turning their defeat on its head, the company took out full page ads in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times like this:

Reading the advertisement, you’d think that the company won the lawsuit. What they did instead was cleverly excerpt out-of-context quotes from the judge that seemingly supported their case.

Look at the first claim in the advertisement above, where the company quotes the judge as saying that scientific studies support the claim that pomegranate juice supports prostate health including by slowing the rate of increase in a man’s PSA level. What they failed to tell you was the following, that the judge said immediately after that.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“However, the greater weight of the persuasive expert testimony shows that the evidence relied upon by Respondents is not adequate to substantiate claims that the POM Products treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of prostate cancer or that they are clinically proven to do so. Indeed, the authors of the Pantuck Study and the Carducci Study each testified that their study did not conclude that POM Juice treats, prevents, or reduces the risk of prostate cancer. And, as Respondents’ expert conceded, no clinical studies, research and/or trials show definitively that the POM Products treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of prostate cancer.” — Judge D. Michael Chappell, page 282.

Looking at the company’s third claim in the ad above about promoting erectile health, the company conveniently omitted the judge’s conclusion in the very next sentence:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“There is insufficient competent and reliable scientific evidence to show that pomegranate juice prevents or reduces the risk of erectile dysfunction or has been clinically proven to do so.” – page 188

What chutzpah this company has. It will be interesting to see if the FTC goes after Pom for the deceptive nature of these misleading ads.

• • •

3 Comments

  1. Is the argument itself that the POM product doesn’t provide health benefits or that pomegranate juice doesn’t? The wording in the conclusions (from the document provided by the webpage in the ad) is kind of confusing to me.

    Comment by Wayner — June 4, 2012 @ 9:00 am
  2. Though not in the context of this story, we often here claims that products that promote health are “clinically proven”? Question is who’s clinic? Any company can lay claim to this just be setting up a small area in their break room and calling it their clinic! I’ve often wondered about this.

    Comment by Frankie — June 4, 2012 @ 10:39 am
  3. Shows you can take anything out of context and make it say what you want it to.

    Comment by Jared G — June 5, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

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