POM Wonderful deceived consumers in some of its claims about the health benefits of pomegranate juice, the Federal Trade Commission says in a complaint filed Sept. 27.

POM Wonderful said the FTC’s action is unfounded.

The FTC alleges ads falsely asserted the company’s products prevent, treat or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. Also named in the complaint are POM Wonderful president Matthew Tupper; owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick; and sister corporation Roll International.

The complaint also targets POMx pills and liquid extract.

The ads appeared in Parade, Fitness, The New York Times, and Prevention; online at http://www.pomwonderful.com and http://pompills.com; and on product tags, among other venues.

“Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release.

According to the FTC, POM Wonderful falsely claimed its products:

  • decrease arterial plaque, lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart, and
  • prolong prostate antigen doubling time.

Scientific studies by POM Wonderful did not show heart disease benefits, the FTC says.

The prostate study cited was neither blind nor controlled, according to the complaint, and the erectile dysfunction study did not show the juice was more effective than a placebo.

In a news release, POM Wonderful said it has initiated a lawsuit alleging that the commission has interfered with its First Amendment rights.

“We do not make claims that our products act as drugs,” the news release said. “We believe the commission is acting beyond its jurisdiction, exceeding its authority, and creating a new regulatory scheme that attempts to treat our juice as a drug, which it is not.”

A hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled in eight months. The FTC’s proposed order would require pre-approval by the Food and Drug Administration of health claims by the company.

The complaint is on the FTC's website.

POM Wonderful said it’s spent $34 million on pomegranate research over more than a decade. More than 55 studies on POM products, including 19 clinical trials, have been published in peer reviewed journals, according to the company.

In a related case, Mark Dreher, POM Wonderful’s former head of scientific and regulatory affairs, has agreed to a settlement that bars him from making disease treatment or prevention claims in ads for company products unless they meet FDA requirements.

FTC targets POM Wonderful juice ads