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POM Wonderful: Not So Wonderful After All, Says the FTC

POM juice

POM Wonderful's claims about the health benefits of its Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements go a little too far, according to a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the suit, the FTC wants POM to stop running its misleading ads and get FDA approval in the future for all ads that make specific health claims.

POM's ads make some lofty assertions—one ad says that the juice can lead to a 30% decrease in arterial plaque along with 17% improved blood flow. And the Wall Street Journal reports that company co-founder Lynda Resnick has publicly announced that the drink can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.

The pomegranate juice giant isn't the first company to be targeted by the FTC. This past February, the FTC sent letters to 17 food corporations, including Kellogg, Nestle, and POM, warning that their ads violated federal law by making misleading statements about disease prevention and health benefits. But while other targeted companies have stopped producing the ads in question, POM has gone on the offensive, saying that prescreening of ads violates the company's First Amendment rights.

The company explained in a statement:

POM believes very strongly in its first amendment rights to communicate the promising results of our extensive scientific research program on pomegranates. We believe the commission is acting beyond its jurisdiction, exceeding its authority, and creating a new regulatory scheme that attempts to treat our juice as a drug, which it is not. The FTC is violating POM’s constitutional rights to share useful and important information with the public, and therefore we have initiated a separate lawsuit to preserve these rights.

The public battle comes at a bad time for company founders Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Earlier this month, the Renzo Piano-designed Linda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened to considerable acclaim.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.