HEALTH

U.S. top court rejects POM Wonderful appeal over advertising

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected POM Wonderful's challenge to a 2010 Federal Trade Commission finding that the pomegranate juice maker's advertising was misleading in claiming its products fight ailments such as heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The Supreme Court left in place a January 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit largely upholding the government's action.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that POM Wonderful could not advertise that its pomegranate drinks treat or prevent heart disease or other medical conditions unless it has proof, upholding an FTC order.

The advertisements that the FTC challenged appeared in Parade, Fitness and Prevention magazines, as well as online and on product tags, the FTC said.

"Many of those ads mischaracterized the scientific evidence concerning the health benefits of POM's products with regard to those diseases. The FTC Act proscribes - and the First Amendment does not protect - deceptive and misleading advertisements," the appeals court said in its ruling, referring to the U.S. Constitution's protection of free speech.

The advertisements that most concerned the FTC were discontinued in 2005 and others were halted in 2007, POM's lawyers said.

The case is POM Wonderful v. FTC, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-525.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Will Dunham)