May 23/Washington/Bloomberg News -- POM Wonderful LLC does not have the scientific backing to make advertising claims that its pomegranate juice and supplements prevent or treat prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and heart disease, a U.S. Federal Trade Commission lawyer said.

Studies the company cites often lack comparisons to control groups, do not show statistically significant changes in medical conditions and are measuring the wrong indicators of improvement, FTC attorney Heather Hippsley said.

Company documents show that executives of Los Angeles-based POM were aware of the studies’ shortcomings, she said during the first day of an FTC hearing on the claims. “They repeatedly ignored warning signs that the marketing didn’t match the science,” Hippsley said.

The case is a test of the FTC’s campaign to force food companies to support their advertising with more scientific findings. Last year, the FTC pressured Nestle NA and the Dannon Co. Inc., a U.S. unit of Danone SA, to change ads for their probiotic products. Probiotics are bacteria found in the gut that may aid digestion.

The FTC is “aggressively seeking to obtain new legal ground against advertisers” and “apply a pharmaceutical ‘drug’ standard to food products,” according to a brief filed by POM Wonderful and Roll Global, an associated company that is also a defendant.

In its complaint, the FTC highlighted one ad that shows a POM juice bottle blasting off like a rocket and proclaiming, “I’m off to save prostates!”


From the May 25, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.