Regulators slap POM Wonderful for deceptive juice ads

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,” POM Wonderful said.

Stewart A. Resnick and Lynda Rae Resnick, the husband and wife team of advertising executives for POM, said that none of their ads claim to have “clinical proof” because any references to studies in the ads are accurate descriptions of the prevalence of a disease — but the commission disagreed.

“Reasonable consumers are unlikely to differentiate the precise medical differences after reading a headline proclaiming ‘Prostate Cancer Affects 1 Out of Every 6 Men,’ ... or the headline ‘Amaze your cardiologist.’”

In its appeal, the company said the commission had violated its 1st Amendment rights. “Potentially misleading commercial speech cannot be prohibited,” 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,” those ads said.

— This story was updated at 5:22 p.m.