Pomegranate Juice Manufacturer and its President Held Liable for False Advertising and Unfair CompetitionJuly 27, 2008
In a case brought by POM Wonderful under the Lanham Act and California state statutes governing false advertising and unfair competition, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held Purely Juice and its president liable to the tune of nearly $1.5 million. In its opinion, the court cites substantial analytical evidence gathered by POM Wonderful that a Purely Juice product sold as “100% pomegranate juice” with “no sugar added” in fact contained low levels of pomegranate solids and contained added sweeteners. Further, Purely Juice had been made aware of the problem with its product, but continued to market it, unlike other competitors with similar problems, who apparently took corrective action.
Notably, the court also held that Purely Juice knew, or should have known, of problems with adulteration of foreign pomegranate juice concentrate. In light of that knowledge, the court opinion suggests that Purely Juice should have availed itself of test methods that were readily available for determining the authenticity of pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate juice now joins the list of high value commodities, such as olive oil, linked to economic adulteration and misbranding in the public eye. In the absence of a robust federal enforcement program, scrupulous manufacturers will continue to have to prosecute their own interests. As for consumers, the messages are clear and ancient ones: “you get what you pay for” and “buyer beware.”