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POM Wonderful Prostate Ads Don’t Spur FDA Review, Company Says

POM Wonderful LLC doesn’t need U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its pomegranate juice and supplements because ads for the products don’t claim to treat diseases, a lawyer for the company said at a Federal Trade Commission hearing.

In some advertisements, the company legitimately cites studies that show “encouraging” results for pomegranate juice aiding people’s cardiovascular health, said Bert Fields, the lawyer, in closing arguments at today’s hearing in Washington.

“With harmless products like fruit juice, you don’t need” the “gold standard” tests required for FDA approval, he said.

The hearing is over an FTC complaint alleging the company doesn’t have scientific backing to make advertising claims that its juice and supplements prevent or treat prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and heart disease. Under U.S. law, the company can’t claim the products cure or treat diseases without testing.

The advertising goes too far, said Heather Hippsley, an FTC attorney. The advertising implies the products “have a very special magic elixir,” she said.

The FTC is requesting clinical trials, similar to what’s required for approval of medications.

In the case, which began last year, the FTC is urging Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell to require the more involved testing and FDA approval if POM Wonderful doesn’t drop some of its ad claims. Those include one ad that shows a POM juice bottle blasting off like a rocket and proclaiming, “I’m off to save prostates.”

The case is a test of the FTC’s campaign to force food companies to support their advertising with more scientific findings. In 2010, the FTC pressured Nestle NA and the Dannon Co. Inc., a U.S. unit of Danone SA, to change ads for their probiotic products. Probiotics are bacteria found in the gut that may aid digestion.

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