Pomegranate juice is getting its moment in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. POM Wonderful LLC has been slammed by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making deceptive claims.

POM Wonderful LLC is one of the leading makers of pomegranate juice and pomegranate supplements and while the advertising for its line of pomegranate beverages has been successful, it has also been illegal. The FTC’s ruling that POM Wonderful broke federal laws by the deceptive claims in its ads was upheld by Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell.

The deceptive claims by POM Wonderful included claims that pomegranate juice could be used to treat, prevent or reduce the risk of several diseases including heart disease, erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer. The FTC ruling bars POM Wonderful from making any additional claims about the health effects of pomegranate juice that are misleading or are not backed by scientific evidence and research. The FTC has also barred POM Wonderful from misrepresenting any conclusions or results from scientific studies.

POM Wonderful did manage to have one ruling go in their favor. Previously, the FTC wanted any claims POM Wonderful made in regards to treatment, prevention or curing of any diseases, including future claims for heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction, to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Judge Chappell ruled against the FTC, saying FDA approval for all claims would be “overreaching.” Instead, Judge Chappell ruled that POM Wonderful to adhere to the reliable scientific evidence for any claims and to make more generalized claims about the effects of pomegranate juice. POM Wonderful will also be monitored and several record-keeping measures were imposed by Judge Chappell.

The FTC came down hard on POM Wonderful because the claims in the ads were for serious diseases and caused confusion in consumers because they could not verify if the claims were true or backed by clinical studies. According to the FTC, “reasonable consumers would interpret the…advertisements as claiming that drinking eight ounces of POM Juice daily, taking one POMx pill daily, and/or taking one teaspoon of POMx Liquid daily treats, prevents, or reduces the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and/or erectile dysfunction, and/or is clinically proven to do so.”

The scientific studies that POM Wonderful based their claims on did not show health benefits from pomegranate juice. The scientific studies for the heart disease claims did not show POM products to beneficial in treating or preventing heart disease, the prostate cancer studies did not have a control group nor were they “blinded” and in the erectile dysfunction study, pomegranate juice not more effective than a placebo.