The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) order that found POM Wonderful’s advertising to be misleading for claiming that its products treat or reduce the risk of several medical conditions, including prostate cancer and heart disease. POM Wonderful, LLC v. FTC, No. 13-1060 (D.C. Cir., order entered January 30, 2015). In 2013, FTC ordered POM to stop making misleading health claims about its product, and POM challenged the ruling.
POM argued that its ads were protected by the First Amendment, but the court dismissed this argument, finding that deceptive and misleading ads have no First Amendment protection. The juice company also asserted that it had clinical studies to support its health claims. The circuit court affirmed FTC’s finding that POM had cherry-picked its results when presenting them to the public, which invalidated them as support for the claims. The court agreed with POM, however, that the FTC requirement of two double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials (RCTs) was onerous, but found that one RCT as an across-the-board standard for disease claims would be adequate. Finding that POM still could not meet this lowered threshold, the court upheld the FTC ruling.
“It is in keeping with established law that advertisers who market products for serious health conditions must have rigorous science to back up those claims,” said FTC Chair Edith Ramirez in a January 30, 2015, press release. “The court specifically recognized that this applied to food and dietary supplement marketers such as POM. It also held that requiring a randomized, well-controlled human clinical study for future disease benefit claims is an appropriate remedy based on POM’s conduct.”