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FTC judge calls foul on Pom pomegranate marketing

May 21, 2012|By Michael Hiltzik
  • Pom may have distinctive packaging, but the FTC says its health claims are the problem
Pom may have distinctive packaging, but the FTC says its health claims are… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

It has long been clear that the most wonderful thing about Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice is the spectacular marketing skill that persuades consumers to fork over their hard-earned cash for a liquid that sells for five to six times the price of, oh, cranberry juice.

As we've mentioned in the past, the key to that marketing is the claim by Pom's makers, the Beverly Hills grandees Stewart and Lynda Resnick and their company, that Pom has wonderful health effects, especially in the areas of prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, and cardiovascular performance.

Now a Federal Trade Commission judge has weighed the evidence underlying such claims and applied a label of his own to them. In food-related terms, his conclusion is: baloney. 

The 335-page decision found that Pom's health claims weren't backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence, as they needed to be. As a result, they violated federal law. He found further that Pom's claims weren't isolated or accidental, but consistent "over the years." He prohibited Pom from making any such misrepresentations in the future.

Plainly the judge didn't care much about one Pom argument against the FTC's case, which is that it infringed the company's free speech rights by targeting statements made by Lynda Resnick and others in venues such as Martha Stewart's TV show. The ruling applied to Pom's advertisements, the judge said, which violated the law in themselves.

Related stories:

Hiltzik: The "science" behind Pom Wonderful

Hiltzik: Something's not right about this water deal

Lynda Resnick on her style

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