An administrative law judge has apparently begun hearing a Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) complaint alleging that POM Wonderful LLC makes false
and unsubstantiated claims that its pomegranate juice products will prevent
or treat “heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.” According to
a news source, the government opened its case by asserting that the studies
on which the company relied do not support the marketing claims and that
its executives “repeatedly ignored warning signs that the marketing didn’t
match the science.”

Food and beverage companies and advertisers are reportedly watching the
dispute closely; if the agency prevails, the companies will have to support
their advertising with more scientific evidence. POM contends that its product
claims are supported by $35 million in research and that the company has
“sponsored or participated in more than 90 scientific investigations with over
65 studies on POM products, including 17 clinical trials.” POM will also try to
show that the FTC’s complaint violates the company’s First Amendment free
speech rights.

New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle is following the case on
her blog. She was quoted as saying, “It’s so unregulated. The standards have
gotten lower and lower and lower. You can’t sell food without a health claim
nowadays. Nobody will buy it.” She said that if POM prevails, it would be “open
season on health claims, and companies can say anything they want.” It is
anticipated that the hearing will continue over the next four months. See Food
Politics, May 23, 2011; Bloomberg, May 24, 2011.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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