As part of a larger ruling on an FTC complaint, an administrative law judge on Monday issued a cease-and-desist order against Pom Wonderful to stop it from making misleading claims about the health benefits of its pomegranate juice. The judge determined that Pom Wonderful and its founders, Stewart and Lynda Rae Resnick, spread deceptive claims implying that the juice could treat or prevent erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer and heart disease. The ads appeared in print publications, billboards and on the Internet.
Judge D. Michael Chappell issued the 335-page ruling after nearly two years of legal wrangling. The FTC filed a complaint in September 2010 that accused Pom Wonderful of false advertising, after Pom Wonderful sued the FTC for infringing on the company's First Amendent rights.
"I am pleased that Judge Chappell found that all respondents including Mr. and Mrs. Resnick violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by deceptively advertising that the POM products treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction and has entered an order against them," David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.
The decision can be appealed before the full FTC.
Earlier Monday, Pom Wonderful and parent company, Roll Global, declared victory of sorts in a press release because the juice maker said it would not need to have its marketing pre-approved by the FDA, nor would it have to conduct placebo-controlled tests to reinforce its claims.
"Through its lawsuit against POM, the FTC tried to create a new, stricter industry standard, similar to that required for pharmaceuticals, for marketing the health benefits inherent in safe food and natural food-based products. They failed," POM lawyer Craig Cooper wrote in the release.
"We do believe this is a win for any natural food or beverage that is backed by strong, peer-reviewed, published research," Pom Wonderful spokesman Corey Martin told The Huffington Post.