Pomegranates Gone Wild

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Posted in category Food Politics

The Coca-Cola machine vs the self-professed lords of pomegranate – the Supreme Court is hearing arguments. POM Wonderful first sued Coca-Cola in 2008 under the Lanham Act, signed into law by Harry Truman, which “prohibits false and misleading statements” about products. POM’s case is essentially one of competition: Coca-Cola has produced a nasty, little product made by its Minute Maid division, and this product is sold as a pomegranate-blueberry juice. In reality, it’s just another sugary apple juice trying to capitalize on the popularity and perceived health benefits of pomegranate. Here’s a description of the product from the Bloomberg article:

In the courtroom, Pom pointed out that when customers buy Minute Maid’s Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of five juices, they think they’re getting mostly pomegranate and blueberry juice. But the beverage is 99.4 percent apple and grape juice, 0.3 percent pomegranate juice, 0.2 percent blueberry juice, and 0.1 percent raspberry juice. Pom also took issue with the images on the label—featuring a pomegranate and blueberries as prominently as an apple, grapes, and raspberries—and the size of the type for “Pomegranate Blueberry” compared with “flavored blend of five juices.”

This product is sold cheaper than POM’s 100% pomegranate juice because it is mostly made up of a cheap and widely available fruit – apples – while pomegranate resources are more scare, and thus this fruit tends to be a more pricey product in its purest form.

Somewhere, there has to be a government dictate that stirs the pot, right? Of course, for Coca-Cola’s defense is that it is adhering to the relevant FDA guidelines for food labeling, and these guidelines allow food companies to call a horse a cat if that horse incidentally passed a cat in the barn somewhere in its past. FDA guidelines are in place in order to protect the Industrial Food Machine from having to reveal industrial ingredients, while allowing them to deceive consumers.

POM has its own issues with deceptive advertising, making multiple health benefit claims as regards pomegranate juice. In the end, it is up to each individual customer to sort it all out and to be self-educated enough to deconstruct marketing ploys. Consumers, much to their dismay, can never rely on an authoritarian, self-interested government body – such as the FDA – to regulate markets and determine individual food choices. I know, no one wants to hear the same old accountability argument because, after all, government is here to protect us, serve us, and keep us informed. And no one wants to hear that the FDA is one of the most politicized and totalitarian arms of the US government that is busy protecting us to death.


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2 Responses to Pomegranates Gone Wild

  1. Bill says:

    April 26th, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Yeah, they are adhering to FDA rules on labeling, and I have to admit that I find the labeling helpful, but imagine if there were no content labeling rules at all. I think a large section of the population would not care, the same section that doesn’t read labeling today. But many, such as myself, would be skeptical of claims, especially when the food maker claims ‘healthful’ ingredients. It would be to the benefit of the ‘POM Wonderfuls’ of the world to print in larger letters than are required now their contents (and maybe even compare them to Minute Maid’s). I don’t think it would be libelous to point out what is a fact: calling Minute Maid’s product ‘pomegranate’ is bordering on fraudulent. There are always going to be snake oil salesmen, FDA or no, but a true free market would be more informative than the weak scheme now required by the FDA.

  2. Tommy Udo says:

    May 5th, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Must be on another vacation.

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