POM Wonderful, LLC
is a privately owned company which markets an eponymous brand of beverages and fruit extracts. It was founded in 2002 by the billionaire industrial agriculture couple Stewart and Lynda Rae Resnick
Lynda Rae Resnick is an American entrepreneur and businesswoman. Resnick is married to Stewart A. Resnick, who is also her business partner. Through their holding company they own the POM Wonderful and FIJI Water brands, the Teleflora floral wire service company, large industrial citrus and nut...
. They are also affiliated with the companies Teleflora
Teleflora is a floral wire service company which brokers orders to local florists for delivery. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, it offers what it describes as florist-to-florist clearinghouse services; these enable sale and delivery of eligible products to be independent of one another....
, FIJI Water
thumb|right|FIJI Water for sale in a deli.FIJI Water is a U.S.-based business and brand of bottled water derived, bottled, and shipped from the Fiji Islands. It is available in 330ml, 500ml, 1 liter and 1.5 liter bottles...
, pesticide manufacturer Suterra, and Paramount Agribusiness. Although POM Wonderful does not disclose its profits, Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...
magazine reported annual sales of its juice rose from $12 million in 2003 to $91 million in 2006.
The company's flagship product is pomegranate juice packaged into a trademark "double-bulb" bottle. It also markets blended juice beverages such as pomegranate juice mixed with juices of blueberry, cranberry, cherry, mango, or tangerine. It also markets bottled tea and coffee based beverages of various flavors distributed in more conventional containers. In addition to drinks the company sells pills and concentrated liquid products marketed as nutritional supplements.
The brand name "POM Wonderful" refers to the "Wonderful" variety of pomegranate
The pomegranate , Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between five and eight meters tall.Native to the area of modern day Iran, the pomegranate has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. From there it spread to Asian areas such as the Caucasus as...
which is grown in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley is the area of the Central Valley of California that lies south of the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta in Stockton...
of Central California. It is the leading commercial variety in California being well suited for juicing with its soft seeds, high water content, and wine-like flavor.
POM branded products are produced from fruit obtained from their own corporate orchards, and other orchards in the same area. The company employs a proprietary process in their own facilities to mechanically extract juice for various pomegranate based products.
Sponsorship of research
POM Wonderful makes claims in promotional materials to have spent tens of millions of dollars for research. There are two broad types of research being sponsored and published. One type regards the proposed health benefits of pomegranate juice, the other type regards chemical analysis and bio-availability of pomegranate extracts and supplements. Pomegranate juice in general is the actual subject of its published sponsored research regarding health benefits, though POM typically supplies the juice to the investigators of the study. Published sponsored research regarding POM's extract products (pills and liquid concentrates) deal only with chemical analysis and bio-availability of said products, without examining any health benefits. Research has been conducted at various research institutions including UCLA, University of Naples (Italy), Technion Institute (Israel), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The company has promoted these studies as indicating that consumers of their beverages and extracts will receive a wide range of health benefits against various chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction. POM Wonderful has sponsored research which in some cases involved animal testing
Animal testing, also known as animal experimentation, animal research, and in vivo testing, is the use of non-human animals in experiments. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of vertebrate animals—from zebrafish to non-human primates—ranges from the tens of millions to more than 100 million...
but has not engaged in the practice since June 2007.
On February 23, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
(FDA) informed the company in a Warning Letter
The United States Food and Drug Adminstration defines a Warning Letter as "...a correspondence that notifies regulated industry about violations that FDA has documented during its inspections or investigations...
that POM Wonderful was "[promoting] (POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice) for conditions that cause the product to be a drug".
Examples of unapproved labeling cited in the warning letter come from a section of POM's website titled "Featured Scientific Studies" which contained health claims regarding "Prostate Cancer", "Erectile Function", "Reducing LDL cholesterol", "promote(ing) a healthy heart and prostate", "reduce(ing) the length and severity of colds", "...shown to slow prostate tumor growth", "particularly beneficial ("among quite a few others")."
FDA contends that, if the manufacturer desires to market its products with claims for the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, the product is subject to the typical scientific rigor of the drug approval process to achieve such claims.
POM's labeling as a food is also criticized in the letter due to a product claim of being "full of antioxidants called phytochemicals" and having "uniquely high levels of powerful antioxidants". Such nutrient content claims on food must have a scientifically validated Dietary Reference Intake
The Dietary Reference Intake is a system of nutrition recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The DRI system is used by both the United States and Canada and is intended for the general public and health professionals...
value and the names of such nutrients be included. Simply using the terms "antioxidants" and "phytochemicals" is not specific enough for food nutrient labeling requirements because phytochemical
Phytochemicals are biologically active chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants . Phytochemicals are the molecules responsible for the color and organoleptic properties . For example, the deep purple color of blueberries and the smell of garlic...
s in pomegranate juice have not yet been defined with actual physiological properties in humans.
On September 27, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act...
issued an administrative complaint against POM Wonderful saying it had made “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.” The complaint is a legal order intended to prevent future law violations by POM Wonderful.
POM response to FDA action
POM is quoted as responding with the following "all statements made in connection with POM products are true...and as strong advocates of honest labeling and fair advertising, we are looking forward to working with the agency to resolve this matter." The FDA warning letter makes it clear that it expects POM to correct "deficiencies in your products or... labeling" within 15 days.