Regulators slam POM Wonderful over ads

Federal regulators on Wednesday upheld a ruling that the popular juice company POM Wonderful has engaged in deceptive and misleading marketing practices.

In ratifying the decision, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it had found even more instances of misleading marketing by POM Wonderful. 

The company deceived consumers, regulators said, by claiming that POM juices could “treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.” The commission said the company had a “lack of sufficiently reliable evidence” to back up those claims.

The commission barred the company from claiming that its juices are “effective in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease,” unless there is sufficient medical evidence.

The FTC ruled that the company made false or deceptive claims for 36 products, up from the 19 instances that FTC Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell found in May 2012.

POM Wonderful vowed to appeal the ruling and said the FTC is ignoring the health benefits of pomegranates.

The company said it “has always communicated with our consumers in a transparent, honest and often humorous manner, delivering valuable information about the health benefits of our products.”

“By holding health food companies to pharmaceutical research standards ... the FTC is going to stifle research across the entire food industry,” the company said.

POM Wonderful began marketing the pomegranate juices in 2002, according to FTC documents, and reaped nearly $250 million in sales from 2002 to 2010.

The advertisements challenged by the FTC were for products such as POM juice, POMx liquid and POMx pills.

Two of the misleading ads, according to the FTC’s decision, showed a POM Wonderful juice bottle hooked up like a medical IV to a woman clad in a bikini top and a man dressed as a superhero. “Amaze your cardiologist” and “Lucky I have super HEALTH POWERS,” the ads said.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is moving to increase the fees paid by the dairy industry for “grading and inspection services.” 

The proposal would increase the  fees by 15 percent in fiscal 2013 and another 5 percent in fiscal 2014.

AMS says the additional fees are needed because “reduced employee numbers, increases in salaries, technology investments and general inflation” have offset any savings resulting from the more efficient technologies since the fees were last updated in 2006.

The services are “voluntary” and paid for entirely by the fees charged to participants. The estimated cost to the industry will be “less than $0.0004 per pound of dairy product graded,” according to the agency.

“This increase is needed to avoid a reduction in the services offered that aid the dairy industry in effectively marketing their products,” AMS said in its proposal.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY. A federal committee established to handle energy-efficiency standards for appliances plans to meet for the first time next month.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced that Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee would meet on Feb. 26 in Washington.

The committee will discuss what appliances and equipment might be suitable for energy-efficiency standards. 

Members of the public are free to attend or provide comment.