The Alliance For Natural Health

Breaking News: POM’s “David and Goliath” Victory over Coca-Cola

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Two whole and one half of pomegranate isolated on white backgrouLast week’s Supreme Court ruling shows how federal agencies harass small food and supplement companies on labeling and advertising, but let industry favorites ignore or stretch the same rules. Action Alert!

Last month, we told you about the POM Wonderful vs. Coca-Cola Supreme Court saga. Good news! POM Wonderful has had a resounding victory: in a ruling that spans the court’s ideological divide, the justices determined 8-0 (one justice recused himself from the case) that POM Wonderful can sue Coca-Cola over its deceptive labeling claims.

A quick summary for those just tuning in: In 2008, POM Wonderful took Coca-Cola to court over its Minute Maid brand’s “Pomegranate Blueberry” flavored juice. It sued Coke under the Lanham Act, which allows a company to litigate against competitors that misrepresent the nature of their products, if that falsification unfairly cuts into its rivals’ profits.

According to POM’s suit, Coca-Cola engaged in false advertising by portraying a product consisting of 0.3% pomegranate juice, 0.2% blueberry juice, 0.1% raspberry juice, and 99% apple and grape juice as being primarily pomegranate and blueberry juice. Evidently, Coca-Cola wanted to cash in on the market largely created by POM Wonderful.

After lower courts decided that the FDA’s approval of the label under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C) preempted any Lanham Act action by POM, POM appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision means food companies will have to be more careful in their labeling claims, as this ruling may spark a sort of industry self-policing: if Food Company A makes a misleading labeling claim (even if said claim is FDA-approved) which steals market share from Food Company B, Company B can now sue Company A under the Lanham Act.

Whether or not this ruling will ultimately benefit consumers remains to be seen. The most important point is that POM Wonderful—a private company, and not a federal agency actually responsible for labeling or false advertising—was forced to spend very large amounts of time, money, and resources to obtain justice. Neither the FDA (responsible for food labeling) nor the FTC (responsible for false advertising) lifted a finger to take on Coca-Cola’s clearly deceptive labeling claims.

The FDA deemed Coca-Cola’s label to be fully FDA-compliant because the agency allows companies to label a product based on its natural or artificial flavors regardless of the actual percentage of each juice in the drink. Some industry experts expect this ruling to “chip away at the primacy of the FDA.” We won’t hold our breath, but hope so.

The FTC says it aggressively pursues false advertising cases—but seems to reserve its energies for dietary supplement companies and innovative mavericks like POM Wonderful. For example, while POM Wonderful is fighting an ongoing war with the FTC over its products’ labeling claims (e.g., the humorous “Cheat Death!” slogan), the FTC didn’t bat an eyelash at Coca-Cola’s product, the label of which carried an enormous picture of a pomegranate with the claim, “Help Nourish Your Brain!” For our Action Alert on the FTC’s huge overreach in another ongoing POM Wonderful case, see here.

The federal government’s bias against dietary supplements and independent companies is painfully clear. It’s just a shame that it took eight Supreme Court justices to start to address the issue.

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  • Marie Kopin

    I would appreciate more accurate truth in advertising products. It is false advertising to me to name a product claiming some exotic fruits and the like when the % contained therein is minute.

  • james

    .5% juice your joking right?

  • My question for you all is this: How do you expect GMO labeling to stop the genetic drift from GMO crops to conventional fields, and the eventual takeover of all fields?

    While I fully agree that we all have the absolute right to know what we are consuming as food, I cannot agree that GMO labeling does anything but LEGITIMIZE the use of these crops at all. Labeling and then putting these products on the shelves along with non-GMO foods tells people not just what contains what, but that because it is ON the shelf, it MUST be safe… mustn’t it? After all, the government allows it….

    Labeling is not a “step forward” either, because of the factor above. The uneducated masses still buy into what mass media tells them…. that fast food is good for you. Labeling will not stop brand loyalty either: people will be saying to themselves, oh well, I’ve eaten that stuff for years now and it hasn’t hurt me yet…. and meanwhile their guts could be producing Bt toxin within their own bodies, and they won’t know about it until it is way too late.

    GMO’s have NO REASON TO EXIST. Not unless it is the purpose of our lives to provide them with profit while they damage our health.

  • This is not exactly David/Goliath as the owners of POM are Stewart and Lynda Resnick, originally from Philadelphia, where I now them from.
    In 2002, NY Times story described the Resnicks as “Beverly Hills billionaires, where they live in a Faux-Chateau that imitates Versaille.
    Their company “Roll” owns, the Franklin Mint, Tele-flora, the floral delivery system; Figi Water; Paramount Farms pistachio/almond farm operation in California; and Paramount Citrus grower/packer/shipper of California citrus.
    The Resnick’s planted 6000 acres of pomegranates and Paramount operations are the “nation’s largest fruit and nut growing operation, with 125 square miles of farms.”
    NOT AS BIG AS COKE…But no DAVID!

    • Either way….all the power to them for pursuing justice for themselves and the rest of us. I’ll be buying POM just to thank them for their willingness to fight for what’s right.

  • Merissa Lovett

    The federal government needs to understand that we are taking back our food supply. Expect more fights like this one over suspect labeling.

  • It seems to me that we have lost things like truth and ethics in business today. This is a sign that people are fed up with being lied to and over charged by everyone for everything. Our country has an addiction far more than destructive than all drugs combined and it is called money/profit/greed, you choose. Glad to see they have prevailed so far.

    • Chris

      It would be important to note that “Big ___ business” would be absolutely powerless without a corrupt & complicit BIG GOVERNMENT and their alphabet agencies such as the FDA !

  • Susan Lea

    I love POM Wonderful. This litigation could not have been cheap for them, but they had the law squarely on their side despite the fraud of the FDA and FTC. I own several dozen of their glasses which is how they originally sold their product. I will talk up their product at the organic food store where I shop. We should be doing all we can to support POM Wonderful.

  • Richard Higgs jr

    It’s common knowledge that politicians have their hands in the wallets of big business! Just we the citizens cannot do anything about it because of all this monetary greed!!!

  • Michael Soudant

    Didn’t Coca Cola argue in court that consumers could not realistically expect their product “Vitamin Water” to actually contain vitamins? What’s to prevent “Heroin Water” or “Crack Cocaine Cocktail”? But seriously, where is our chief executive who promised to label GMO’s and to focus on enabling us to access foods honestly advertised? Our legislators are hopelessly indentured to their campaign sponsors but our lame duck president has nothing to lose but his post presidential speaking fees. Deeply disappointed as I am with the Windbag in Chief I still hope that he will revert to the persona he presented to us as candidate.

  • Charlotte Braun

    The FDA only cares about 3 things—-Money, Money and more Money. They do NOT really care about the American people. Also they don’t seem to have a lot of common sense.

  • Alice Jewell

    Thank you for sharing this information. It is shameful that a private company had to spend so much time and money on something the FDA and FTC should have done. Kudos to Pom Wonderful for being persistent!

  • It should be a crime to label food falsely. We spend hard earned money trying to choose what we think is good for our families, only to find out that so many are lying about it and getting away with it.
    I want to know what has been genetically altered and I want to know that I am getting the ingredients in food that it says I am paying for.

  • Coca Cola;

    Choosing to cheat to win never was and hopefully never will be the choice product for the consumer.
    Lloyd Downs

  • Heather

    Now lets all go buy Pom Wonderful…..they deserve our loyalty!

  • Shane

    Yes, a victory over the liars who are misleading the consumer. How about Froot Loops having no fruit in it!

  • Fireflame

    The sad truth is many companies believe the only way to get rich is to lie and cheat. For example I worked for a company that put a product in the middle of a bubble pack of equipment where the middle product was made in the USA. Where the rest of the more expensive parts were made in China. The middle part had a huge label on it saying “Made in USA”. This gave the illusion that the whole package was American made. By time the consumer could figure it out is after they opened to package at home and they had been ripped off.
    Thanks to the new Security ” laws it is now an act of terrorism for consumers to do a “Buy in America” campaign. The big companies get a pass and the little guy goes to jail.
    It is nice to see for a change that somebody didn’t get away this time.

  • Diane

    Well, as we all can see…. it’s all about the “All Mighty Dollar” & “Greed”!! It’s appalling to think small companies don’t stand a chance against large corporations. Why does the FDA & FTC exist, if they’re not going to enforce the law, place large fines on these large corporations that think they can do whatever they want.

    • Rev Victoria

      To fool us to think that Gov and Big Corp care for us the little Mam and Woman who buys there lies no stopped when we became a world power we are just mindless pee on that buy the laws and lies thy put out read and look before you buy i do now and spread the word to all who u love

    • The head of the FTC just one more Obama appointee attacking our health. How many can Obama shove down our throats before being dumpt from office

  • Our government regulators are complicit in the fraud – not hard to believe, but when and how will this be fixed? Contact Congress??? And it took the Supreme Court to recognize the problem! We are in deeper trouble than ever.

    • Rev Victoria

      Look up facts on Coca Cola and will see it has aspartame in it very deadly to us and it cleans car batters and drive ways of stains and people drink it by the boat lode scary

    • Mary

      With the activities of the FDA, we continue to get deeper & deeper into trouble.

      They try to deny our bodies need various nutrients to survive, much less thrive.

      Remember diseases such as scurvy, beri beri & pellagra? f the FDA gets its way, we will see them again.

  • Mary

    While I am glad POM Wonderful got so far in court, I will not be drinking very many juices of any kind. Nor will I be drinking the competing Coke product.

    The fact POM Wonderful is produced by a wealthy family should not deter one from buying a quality product that seems much better than most.

    I believe all these juices MUST be pasteurized by law. I remember California made another brand start pasteurizing after some people got sick from unpasteurized juice. So remember that when purchasing.

    Since juices can go quickly into the blood, they are better used as a treat and not a regular item.

    I live in Mexico and orange juice is frequently squeezed just for me. I love it. AND I rarely get it because of the blood sugar issues.

  • Read Between the Lines

    I’m surprised to see so many jumping on POM’s bandwagon. It’s not exactly the “David” implied. POM v. Coke is more akin to two Goliaths competing. Don’t be so easily fooled. Do the research.

  • P O’Connor

    It’s simple if the government disapproves it, it usually is safe and healthy to use. If they disapprove anything stock up on it, or find out where to black market it.