May 23, 2012 — An administrative judge has issued a cease-and-desist order to the makers of Pom Wonderful, a pomegranate juice regarding misleading advertisements. Judge D. Michael Chappell’s decision upheld much of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint from September 2010, which accused Pom Wonderful of making deceptive claims in its ads. The ads implied Pom could treat or prevent serious diseases and other medical conditions, when there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these claims.
Not all the ads were found to be deceptive, but the judge highlighted ads that claimed Pom was an “antioxidant superpower.” The ads then described antioxidants as protection against substances that “can cause heart disease, premature aging, Alzheimer’s disease, even cancer.” Other ads claim that Pom can treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, heart disease, and other health claims.
The company is barred from making misleading claims regarding the health benefits of its products for the next 20 years. Violations of the cease-and-desist order could face a fine of $16,000 per incident. The judge’s decision goes into effect 30 days from May 21, 2012, unless Pom formally challenges the ruling.
If Pom does appeal the ruling, the matter would be heard by an FTC panel. If the company wishes to further appeal, they could take the issue to federal appeals court.
Judge Chappell did strike down one provision of the FTC complaint, which would have required Pom to gain FDA approval before creating advertisements for the next five years. The FTC complaint also would have required Pom to conduct well-controlled scientific studies to back up any future health claims. Judge Chappell found that these two requirements to be over-reaching power, and Pom will not be held to such requirements.
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