Over the last several weeks, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) and POM Wonderful LLC (“POM”), the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements, have been engaged in a battle over the scope of the FTC’s authority to regulate advertisements and the propriety of claims POM has made in marketing its products.
After initially being placed on the defensive by a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) in February, POM has taken an offensive approach by suing the FTC for declaratory relief, asking that the FTC’s standard for non-deceptive advertising be held invalid. Further, POM has asked the Washington D.C. District Court to find that the FTC overstepped its authority in defining what constitutes “substantiation” of health-related claims in recent consent agreements with Nestle Healthcare Nutrition, Inc. and Iovate Health Sciences, Inc. In those cases, the FTC alleged that Nestle and Iovate had engaged in deceptive trade practices in contravention of the FTC Act by falsely advertising the health benefits of their various products. As we have blogged previously (here and here), POM has been fairly active in the past year in pursuing its legal remedies, the two prior instances being Lanham Act claims.
On September 27, the FTC responded, alleging in its suit against POM that the advertisements for the company’s 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements contain false and unsubstantiated claims regarding the ability of the products to treat or prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Interestingly, the FTC has proposed a settlement to POM, with one of the conditions being that POM receive FDA approval for any advertisements that claim its product “cures, prevents, treats, or reduces the risk of any disease.” Thus far, POM has stood by its research behind its health claims, making this an interesting set of cases to follow moving forward.