The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion on Friday, January 30, upholding the Federal Trade Commission’s findings that POM Wonderful’s advertising, in which it claimed that consuming POM Wonderful pomegranate juice could prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, was deceptive. Although the D.C. Circuit acknowledged the importance of clinical trial evidence in supporting disease risk reduction claims, the Court disagreed with the Commission’s application of the two randomized clinical trial (RCT) standard, finding it unjustified under the First Amendment.
The D.C. Circuit Held that POM’s Advertising was Deceptive
The Court’s opinion discusses the research that POM Wonderful conducted regarding heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction and how the studies were used to support the advertising. In this analysis, the Court was critical of POM’s selective use of favorable small-scale studies in advertising while disregarding other, larger, unfavorable or inconclusive studies. The Court also noted certain inconsistencies in POM’s arguments regarding the inability to conduct RCTs on certain food products, such as the hurdles of blinding and expense, both of which POM overcame to perform its own research. The Court gave appropriate deference to the agency as an expert in determining whether an advertisement is deceptive and substantively upheld the Commission’s conclusion that POM’s advertising was deceptive.