Friday, May 25, 2012

POM Still Allowed to Advertise Benefits

Story first appeared in USA Today.

POM Wonderful, which has claimed its pomegranate juice helps prevent disease and improve sex lives, took on federal regulators in a new advertising campaign Thursday.

A federal administrative law judge ruled last week that the company did not have the scientific backing to make some of its ad claims about POM juice and its ability to ward off and treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday said the judge's decision upheld its charges that POM advertising was deceptive and misrepresented the science.

AS POM spokesman said the new ad campaign was designed to refute suggestions the company can no longer advertise its products' health benefits.

In a statement, the FTC said the staff was not going to comment on POM's advertising campaign because one or both parties are likely to appeal certain aspects of the administrative law judge's decision.

The FTC filed a lawsuit in 2010 that said POM violated federal law by making deceptive and often unsubstantiated disease-prevention and treatment claims. The FTC said these included ads stating pomegranate juice was beneficial for treating or preventing heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. But POM noted its health benefit claims were deemed to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the ruling.

Key in the decision: the difference between "benefits" and disease treatment or prevention.

In its new ads, POM used three excerpts from the judge's 335-page ruling that it says show it can still advertise the health benefits of its pomegranate juice. In one, a FTC Chief Administrative Law Judge cited expert testimony that pomegranate juice and extract supports prostate health. In another, he cites testimony that pomegranate juice provides a benefit to promoting erectile health and erectile function.

However, the ruling also says there's not enough scientific evidence or clinical proof to show pomegranate juice prevents, treats or reduces the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction.

Even if POM didn't literally win the case, consumer psychologists call its ad campaign a sophisticated move.

Consumers are ready to battle, love to champion underdogs and consider the government to be a big ugly Goliath.

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