(UPDATEDCOVERAGE May 9)
Fifteen minutes each wasn’t long enough for the Federal Trade Commission and Pom Wonderful to summarize their points in a deceptive advertising case that drew a standing room only crowd to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.
The docket for the May 2 hearing before a three-judge panel called for each side to present their cases in 15 minutes.
However, the audio recording of the hearing runs almost two hours and is dmoniated by questions and comments from Judges Sri Srinivasan and Douglas Ginsburg and the circuit’s Chief Judge Merrick Garland. The judges have taken the case under advisement and will issue their opinion at a later date.
“By presenting our case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Friday’s hearing, POM Wonderful is pursuing an appeal to set the record straight and to ensure that consumers can be told about the benefits of healthy foods,” according to a statement issued by Roll Global, the parent company of Pom Wonderful.
The lawyers representing the FTC declined to comment on the pending litigation.
click image to zoomAt issue are print and broadcast advertisements by Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful that stated the company’s 100% pomegranate juice, powdered pomegranate capsule supplements and concentrated pomegranate liquid can treat, prevent and cure heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Pom Wonderful killed some of its advertisements in 2005 and discontinued more in 2007. The company claims the FTC violated its First Amendment rights by restricting the ads.
The FTC contends 36 advertisements make unsupported claims. Roll Global owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick — who also own Paramount Citrus, Wonderful Pistachios and several other companies — say they’ve invested more than $35 million in research that proves their claims.
In court documents, the FTC argued that some of the research paid for by the Resnicks actually showed their products were not more effective than placebos. During the hearing, the FTC’s attorney said some of the research money Pom cited as proving its claims was spent on unrelated projects.
click image to zoomIn the May 2 hearing, the Resnicks’ attorney Thomas Goldstein said the FTC’s demand for two randomized, controlled clinical trials was excessive.He also argued with Chief Judge Garland about related case law, causing the judge to respond, “(the case law) does not say that. I was on the panel and here’s what we said about disclaimers. ...”