Pom: Juice, Drug, or Something New?

The makers of PomWonderful are under fire for their advertising claims. PomWonderful is a juice…a food product.

But its makers claim that it can have specific health effects. Welcome to the complicated world of functional foods.

Here’s the story, by Edward Wyatt, for the NYT: Claims by Pom Juice Called Deceptive

PomWonderful, the pricey and popular pomegranate juice sold in the distinctly curvaceous bottle, is advertised as helping reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the evidence does not back up those claims….

Here’s the interesting bit:

Pom also said that the F.T.C. was, in seeking to require F.D.A. oversight over the company’s claims, treating pomegranate juice as a drug, although the products “do not carry the risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs….”

Well, once upon a time the distinction between food & drug may have been clear. But not in 2010. As I blogged recently, Nestlé has just announced the launch of a new business unit aimed at developing high-tech foods. And if foods can’t carry the risks associated with pharmaceuticals, then why are so many people up in arms about the FDA’s apparent readiness to approve GM salmon?

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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4 Responses to Pom: Juice, Drug, or Something New?

  1. Anastasia says:

    There’s a lot of risky foods out there, specifically when it comes to new foods like starfruit and kiwis. Even foods that have been eaten for hundreds of years can be dangerous for populations that have never eaten them before. Or foods that are normally safe can be accidentally made dangerous through breeding. “Natural” they may be, but new foods may still warrant testing, particularly if they are to be consumed at high levels.

    Pomegranate juice is a perfect example. If you’ve ever tried to eat a pomegranate you know that you can only eat so much simply because it’s hard to get out! Pomegranate juice, especially in such large quantities, is definitely new.

  2. Scott says:

    @Anasthasia, I’m curious. What’s an example of a food that one population can eat, that’s dangerous for another population that’s never eaten it?

  3. Re: Scott,
    I think I can field this one: Milk. 2/3 of the world is intolerant to lactose.

  4. Pingback: The Controversial Pom & Pistachio Magnates | The Food Ethics Blog

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