Sex, lies and pomegranate juice focus of US legal battle

October 21, 2010 by Rob Lever

If the claims are to be believed, pomegranate juice can change your life, preventing prostate and breast cancer, protecting against heart disease and even alleviating erectile dysfunction.

Could it be the elixir from the original fruit of the Garden of Eden? No, says the US , which is suing the California group POM Wonderful for making "false and unsubstantiated claims" about its products.

POM has said it would challenge the FTC, setting up a high-profile battle between the maker of the popular juice and authorities over the so-called superfood which has also been purported to help fight Alzheimer's disease and arthritis and improve sperm quality.

"Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection.

The company, a unit of the Roll International group that includes Teleflora and Fiji Water, is gearing up for battle. It has filed its own lawsuit against the FTC alleging interference with its free speech rights for POM, which does not publish financial results but is believed to have sales of some 100 million dollars a year.

Even after the FTC filed its action, POM Wonderful launched a new campaign with television ads produced by French-Canadian director Francois Girard showing the sex appeal of pomegranates.

In one ad, a nearly naked actress Sonja Kinski is lounging on a bed of greenery with a snake slithering up her body. The voiceover reads: "Some scholars believe it wasn't an apple, but a ruby red, antioxidant-rich pomegranate with which Eve tempted Adam."

Another with Swedish actress Helena Mattsson links pomegranates to the legend of Aphrodite, saying the Greek goddess of love and desire declared the fruit "an aphrodisiac."

The company says it makes no claim that its juice or supplements are drugs, but just .

"Because POM products may in fact offer the promise of better health, we believe it is important to share the research results as they become available," the company said in a statement, refusing to directly answer questions on the court case.

"This is especially true since our products do not carry the risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs. It's a shame that the government is unable to understand this fundamental distinction, and instead is wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate."

Ivan Preston, a University of Wisconsin professor emeritus of communication and specialist in truth in advertising, said POM Wonderful appears to have overstepped the accepted bounds of advertising on the product.

"If they say in their ads, 'backed by science,' they are making a medical claim," he said.

Preston says that in order to promote medical benefits for pomegranate juice, the makers would have to go through a rigorous testing process for clearance by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although POM Wonderful said dozens of studies support its claims, the FTC said the benefits are not supported by accepted scientific standards -- using double-blind groups including one with a placebo.

According to the FTC complaint, POM executives "knew that a large, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, funded by POM Wonderful... showed no significant difference after 18 months between consumption of pomegranate juice and a control beverage in reducing carotid arterial wall thickness."

For prostate cancer, "the evidence relied on by respondents consisted of results from an unblinded, uncontrolled study" and the scientists said it was "controversial" whether the benefits were delivered. The FTC said other health claims also were unsubstantiated.

"The aim of POM's first ever TV advertising campaign is to educate consumers in a provocative and sensual way about the intriguing history of the pomegranate," says POM company president Matt Tupper.

"POM is proud to have explored the mythic properties of pomegranates using modern science."

But Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist and author, said the POM case shows "how easy it is to design studies to give you the answer you want."

"POM research demonstrates that pomegranate juice has antioxidant activity and acts as an antioxidant in the body. Of course it does," Nestle writes on her blog.

"But so does every other fruit and vegetable and what this research does not do is compare the effects of pomegranate juice to those of orange juice, for example."

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1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2010
POM joins glucosamine, chondroitin and snake-oil.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2010
I have seen the commercials for POM pomegranate.

I don't understand the jump in thought here:

"If they say in their ads, 'backed by science,' they are making a medical claim," he said.

If you have gone to college it is Letters and Sciences?

I don't see medicine listed in the M's of the section of Letters and Sciences and from my understanding is a different schooling of thought than commercial advertising.

not rated yet Oct 21, 2010
hey.. snake oil is a good product.. and its salesmen are top notch.. heh..
I think people dumb enough to believe unsubstantiated claims from a manufacturer, should be doomed to buy it.. shout out to Fiji water though, (although it's highly un-eco-friendly to ship water by boat from Fiji to the US, it's really nice to see a water that's actually more on the basic side than the acidic. Sure it could be only a product of the dissolved carbonates, but if that's the case other companies here should just add a pinch of Tums to our bottled water. Then they could price Fiji water right out of the game.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2010
Royale reminded me of the Popular Science water claims found in the October 2007 edition.
The advertisement was for a Medical Discovery-- home water machine(p.113) and the contrary was advertised also on P.115 advertising "Kitchen appliance--- Gurantees pure water is a hoax!!!"

Both are science.
FTC Scale:
this claim in the article is trying to convince me my television is more nutritious than POM.

POM scale:
POM is advertising saying this product is healthier than eating your television.

Laughter is basic to everyone it is science fact. http://www.physor...040.html

People are comparing laughter to laughter and putting it on a scale--- what makes you laugh more is the basis of this claim.

I would like to add a bit more to this in that television advertising is trying to continue the programming meaning who wants to watch an add about dogs being abused after the stanley cup has been won? people want to watch the team celebrate and feel as if they are participating.
not rated yet Oct 31, 2010
hey.. snake oil is a good product.. and its salesmen are top notch.. heh..
I think people dumb enough to believe unsubstantiated claims from
a manufacturer, should be doomed to buy it.. .

Royale if you are serious you are promoting deception and social disfunction, nothing less.
There are real consequences for this. Its not a joke. It's never cool or a good thing to take advantage of someone's current state of awareness on an issue. The predetorial aspect of capitalism is one of its downsides.

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