The makers of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice are firing back at the Federal Trade Commission with an ad campaign featuring the tagline: “FTC v. POM: You Be the Judge.”
The ads, running on news sites and in the pages of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, come days after an FTC judge found several health claims the company made to be “false and not supported by scientific evidence.”
“We will continue to share the valuable health information of our products with consumers, and have decided to share with consumers these benefits using direct quotes from the FTC Administrative Law Judge’s ruling,” said Stewart A. Resnick, president of POM parent Roll Global, in a statement.
The cheeky campaign includes a web ad in which a bottle of the stuff says “I’m off to save prostates!,” along with an out-of-context clip of a quote from the judge’s decision calling the juice a “natural fruit product with health promoting characteristics.” A print ad features longer, but no less decontextualized, quotes from the 335-page decision (.pdf here), which Roll Global painted as a victory for the nutriceuticals business.
“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,” said Roll Global’s top lawyer, Craig Cooper. “They failed. While we are still analyzing the ruling, it is clear that we will be able to continue to promote the health benefits of our safe food products without having our advertisements, marketing or public relations efforts preapproved by the FDA and without having to rely on double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies, the standard required for pharmaceuticals. We consider this not only to be a huge win for us, but for the natural food products industry.”
The FTC conceded that “Judge Chappell ruled that the FDA pre-approval requirement ‘would constitute unnecessary overreaching.’ Instead, the order issued by the judge would require the POM respondents to adhere to the same standard of ‘competent and reliable scientific evidence’ by requiring them to possess such evidence to substantiate both disease claims and more generalized claims about the health benefits, performance and efficacy of their products.”
The judge did specifically order Roll Global to cease making claims about POM’s powers to combat heart disease and erectile dysfunction and to reduce prostate cancer risk. He also imposed something like a food industry Corporate Integrity Agreement on POM, ordering the firm to make available for FTC all advertising and promotion and any substantiating materials for five years. Also, all current and future company directors, officers and managers must read and sign a copy of the judge’s order, and the company must, within sixty days, tell FTC how it intends to comply.
Roll Global said in a statement that the judge “found a fraction of POM’s advertisements misleading” and that “The FTC critically failed to mention that out of 600 print and outdoor advertisements disseminated, the court found less than 2% misleading. POM is appealing those findings.”
The decision came days after Sketchers USA agreed to a $40 million dollar settlement in an FTC case that accused the firm of making deceptive health claims about its “toning” sneakers.