Company loses—again—trying to defend its misleading pomegranate juice claims

“The First Amendment does not protect…deceptive and misleading advertisements.” With those words, a federal appeals court in January put an end to attempts by POM Wonderful to claim that its ads about pomegranate juice are free speech protected by the Constitution.

POM was appealing a 2013 Federal Trade Commission judgment that the company made “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.”

In its January ruling, the appeals court also prohibited POM Wonderful from making any claims that pomegranate juice can prevent or treat any disease unless the claims are supported by at least one randomized controlled trial. (A trial would compare POM to a placebo in people randomly selected—from the same pool—to be in each group.)

In its decision, the appeals court described how POM misled consumers for years by misrepresenting the results of the studies the company paid for.

Here’s some of what the court charged.


POM Wonderful claimed that drinking 8 oz. Of its pomegranate juice every day slowed increases in PSA levels in men who had undergone surgery or other treatment for prostate cancer. POM based the claim on a pilot study it funded at UCLA.

But the study lacked a placebo group that drank a look-alike but pomegranate-free beverage. So there was no way to tell if the pomegranate juice did anything. As the study’s lead author pointed out, PSA scores often rise more slowly in men who have been treated with surgery or radiation.

POM failed to mention that in its promotional materials. Oops.


For at least five years, POM Wonderful claimed that its pomegranate juice was “proven” to be good for the heart because it reduced plaque in the arteries.

The claim was based on a preliminary study of 19 men. But POM failed to tell consumers that pomegranate juice didn’t reduce plaque any more than a placebo drink in two larger studies that the company funded.

And POM kept one of those studies from being published for three years, while it continued to claim that pomegranate juice was a plaque fighter.


POM Wonderful is “proven to fight for...erectile health,” claimed the tags on some POM bottles. As proof, the company cited a study of 53men by a Beverly Hills urologist.

But POM didn’t help the men any more than a placebo drink, according to the two questionnaires that the physician had the men fill out.

Some proof.

THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS JUDGMENT AGAINST POM WONDERFUL: ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/ pom_dc_circuit1_0.pdf