Sunday, June 17, 2012
Feds say it's okay to lie about pomegranate juice
Federal government says it's okay to lie about pomegranate juice, but not to tell the truth
J. D. Heyes
Monday, May 28, 2012
Do you remember our recent story about Coca-Cola getting away with advertising one of its drinks as "Pomegranate Blueberry," even though it only contained a measly 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, of each of those juices? Well, we now learn that the federal government not only sanctions lying about ingredients in drinks, but will punish companies who try to tell the truth about those same products.
Beverage company Pom Wonderful which, as its name suggests, manufactures drinks containing lots of pomegranate, lost a federal false advertising suit it launched against Coca-Cola's subsidiary, Minute Maid, which manufactures the aforementioned Pomegranate Blueberry, because while the ingredients are prominently displayed on the labeling, there is very little of them actually in the drink.
But a federal appeals panel, citing federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, disagreed with Pom Wonderful. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that said federal regulations say a company can name a drink after a "flavoring" that it contains, even if it's not the primary ingredient.
What makes the ruling even more incredulous, given the second part of this story, is the fact that Minute Maid's label on Pomegranate Blueberry says, "Help Nourish Your Brain" above a drawing of fruits. That, as you may have deduced, suggests a medical benefit from drinking this pomegranate concoction, even if there isn't much actual pomegranate in it.
What's 'deceptive' about the truth?
Enter Pom Wonderful, the company that actually puts pomegranate - which research proves can lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood flow to the heart for cardiac patients, reduce thickening of arteries that supply blood to the brain, and lower blood pressure - in its drinks.
It seems the same federal court system thinks it's okay for Coca-Cola to sprinkle a little of the juice in its drinks and call it nourishment for your brain, but Pom Wonderful - whose drinks contain 100 percent pomegranate juice - can't tout the fruit's health benefits.
Just days after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shot down Pom's lawsuit against Coca-Cola, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) judge ruled that health claims made by Pom were deceptive.
The ruling from Administrate Law Judge D. Michael Chappell came after hearing testimony for months, from May through November 2011 - testimony which included appearances by noted diet and coronary expert Dr. Dean Ornish, who - among other foods - recommends eating pomegranates to improve cardiac health.
Note, too, that Pom Wonderful, a Delaware company which is headquartered in Los Angeles, has spent some $35 million over the past 10 years studying the health benefits of pomegranates, and relied on the results of that body of research in advertising its products.
Not officially sanctioned research
Chappell, however, said Pom's advertising "would lead reasonable consumers to conclude that drinking Pom's juice or taking its supplements would treat, prevent, or reduce serious health problems, and that it was clinically proven to do so," according to Courthouse News Service.
What's more, Chappell said in his 330-page ruling that while Pom's research indeed showed a general health benefit in consuming pomegranate, "the weight of the persuasive expert testimony demonstrates that there was insufficient competent and reliable scientific evidence to support" the company's specific claims.
Well, all of this is much easier to understand if you look at it from this perspective. It's all about the Leviathan telling you what is, and is not, "healthy," and what you can, and cannot say, about legitimate research if it is not conducted or sanctioned by the high-and-mighty in D.C.
Pom Wonderful spent tens of millions on research that proves consuming its pomegranate beverages improves overall health. But because the federal government didn't make this discovery, then it's not legitimate and, therefore, inadmissible.
Now do these conflicting rulings make sense?
For the record, pomegranate is quickly gaining favor in health circles for its nutritional value as an antioxidant-rich fruit. It's health benefits are well-documented now, even if you don't read about them in some government agency's literature.
You might say a company that does its own research is tainting the results, but on the other hand, if the same company is later found to have falsified data, what implications would that discovery have for a business that wants to stay around for the long haul?
Sources for this article include: