Chief administrative law judge Michael Chappell made his ruling based on a September 2010 motion against POM and its parent company, Los Angeles-based Roll International Corp., which challenged the notion that pomegranate juice could prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer or even erectile dysfunction (I don't think they put that last one on the label). The company's health claims, such as "the Antioxidant Superpower," are a large part of how the company brands itself and why consumers are willing to shell out premium prices for the super-tart beverage, which has morphed into other products ranging from salad dressing to smoothie mixes.
The FTC alleged that the claims were false because many of the scientific studies did not show direct benefits against the likes of cancer from using POM products and also that subjects that were tested were neither "blinded" nor controlled, nor given a placebo to compare.
But there's something of a silver lining in this ruling for POM Wonderful. The judge rejected claims that natural-food companies must provide the same evidence for health benefits that pharmaceuticals must meet, saying they only have to provide "competent reliable scientific evidence" that a product is doing good things for the body. POM feels pretty confident that it can bust out the lab equipment and prove -- using real science this time -- that pomegranate juice has the superfood benefits worthy of its high cost. We believe it, we think -- why else would people be paying so much for a decidedly acrid and overpowering drink unless it was making them healthier, right?