No, this one isn’t about uniforms. The Supreme Court has refused to hear POM Wonderful’s appeal of FTC findings that claims in POM’s advertising were misleading. POM’s ads claimed that its juice could help prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.
Unsurprisingly, the FTC thought that POM should have some proof of those claims before making them. POM apparently disagreed and appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court. POM was claiming, among other things, that the restriction was an impermissible infringement of its First Amendment rights. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Apparently they thought some evidence of specific health benefits should exist before a company makes such claims. And while the Supreme Court obviously didn’t address the issue, it seems they must have agreed.
I’m a pretty big fan of pomegranate (for the flavor, not the health benefits), but I’d have to agree that if you’re going to claim specific health benefits, you should have some support to back up the claim. Claiming benefits related to actual diseases goes a beyond puffery. Pomegranate juice may not be snake oil, but treating it as a panacea warrants at least a reference.
(I hope they can back that up)
Interestingly enough, the last time POM Wonderful knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court, they won. In that case they were the ones taking issue with someone else’s advertising.
I also find myself questioning their decision to appeal this to the Supreme Court. I don’t remember this issue, even though the legal wrangling has been ongoing since 2010, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have heard of it if they didn’t appeal all the way up the ladder. Of course, if they believe their claims are legitimate (and hopefully believe they have evidence to support that belief), I understand the desire to fight all the way. However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reduced the requirement originally imposed to a single randomized clinical human trial before POM could make such claims. That seems reasonable if you are going to claim your product has specific health benefits. Perhaps they should have taken that as a victory and gone home rather than bringing the issue back up in front of the nation.
This highlights a branding and marketing issue. If your product is a bottled juice, you don’t think like company making supplements or drugs. Juice is good for your, everyone knows that. Here POM has been marketing itself as the healthy refreshment, but it doesn’t think like a company that provides products purely for health benefits. Those companies tend to realize that some level of evidence is required before you make claims about health benefits. But if your product is a beverage readily available in most gas stations, you don’t necessarily realize that support is required. Claiming your juice is healthier than that soda someone might buy is a logical way to get people to purchase your product over some of the others along the six to twenty feet of beverage options available in any given gas station. But there are many juices available too. It’s probably best not to go further by claiming your juice helps fight diseases unless you actually have some evidence to back it up. And that seems fairly reasonable to me.